Baseball final: Minnesota 3, Northern Iowa 4

Austin Cumblad

Here we are back in the Metrodome tonight for a midweek match up between the 5-2 Gophers and the 3-4 Panthers.  Looks like head coach John Anderson has shaken up the lineup  a bit, mostly to give catcher Kyle Knudson, who has started every game this season behind home plate, a little rest.  So Michael Kvasnicka moves in from right field to catch for right-hander Allen Bechstein, who will be on a strict pitch count.  Jon Hummel moves to right field and Sam Ryan gets his first start of his career at left.  Other notable changes include center fielder Eric Decker, who is batting a team-leading and Big Ten-leading .519, moving from the seventh to the fifth spot in the order.  Though this switch seems logical, I think there was some merit to the fear Decker instilled in pitchers near the bottom of the order.  Anderson has said he likes threats all throughout the order, but tonight’s lineup doesn’t have a man with an average above .200 in the last four spots, and Ryan has yet to even record an at-bat this season.  We’ll see if any of them break out tonight.  Now for the starting lineups:

Minnesota starting pitcher – Allen Bechstein
Northern Iowa starting pitcher – David Conrad

Minnesota lineup
1) DH Matt Nohelty
2) SS AJ Pettersen
3) 2B Derek McCallum
4) C Michael Kvasnicka
5) CF Eric Decker
6) 1B Nick O’Shea
7) RF Jon Hummel
8) LF Sam Ryan
9) 3B Kyle Geason

Northern Iowa lineup
1) CF Deric Manrique
2) 3B Grant Grgurich
3) RF Brett Douglas
4) LF Travis Bennett
5) DH James Dinizo
6) C Jeff Taliaferro
7) 1B Kalvin Johnson
8) SS Cory Ege
9) 2B Gabe Schultz

Top 1st Bechstein is off to a shaky start, walking two of his first three batters and firing a past ball to advance both men. With runners on second and third and one out, a high chopper to first was enough to score Grgurich. Bechstein seems afraid to challenge any batter on the inside part of the plate and walks another. Men on the corners with two outs. Taliaferro lines out straight to Decker to end the inning. Bottom 1st Nohelty gets the evening started with a single to the right side. He takes off with a 2-0 count and slides around the tag, despite the throw beating him to the bag. It looked like Nohelty came off the bag and had the second baseman kept the tag down, he might have had Nohelty. With one down, McCallum chops out to second, moving Nohelty over. Then Kvasnicka triples to right-center (the Gophers first of the year) to drive Nohelty in and knot the game at one. Decker grounds out to end the inning. Top 2nd What looks like it should be a routine play nearly turns disastrous as McCallum fires wide to first and pulls O’Shea off the bag. O’Shea manages to make the tag, however, for the first out of the inning. Bechstein seems to have settled down and is working the inside of the plate. He catches Ege looking for his first strikeout of the evening. A deep fly ball by Manrique is tracked down less than gracefully by Decker for the third out of the inning. Bottom 2nd Three quick outs Top 3rd Bullpen is active, Bechstein must be nearing his allocated pitch count. Looks like Minnesota will bring in Tyler Oakes to make his first appearance of the season. He’s been nursing an elbow injury for the past couple weeks. Grgurich walks to lead off the inning, advances to second on a ground out and is driven in on a single by Bennett. Bechstein fans his last batter of the evening and is replaced by Oakes with two outs. Oakes’s first batter lines out to Decker to end the inning. Completely pointless observation: Decker has recorded the last out of every inning so far for Minnesota. Bottom 3rd Chris Macek on the mound for Northern Iowa now. Geason is hit to open the inning but is forced out at second on a Nohelty chopper. Nohelty beats the throw to first, however, to avoid the double play and Pettersen bunts him over. McCallum grounds out to end the inning. Top 4th The elbow must not be bothering Oakes, he blows through the top of the inning one-two-three. Bottom 4th From the other side of the plate, Kvasnicka stays red hot, doubling off the wall to lead off the inning. Decker lines his first pitch up the middle to bring Kvasnicka home and knot the score again. Top 5th Manrique singles, steals and moves to third on an infield hit by Grgurich to put runners on the corners with no one out. Oakes does a nice job of keeping Manrique at third on a weak chopper back to the mound and records an out, then is replaced by sophomore right-hander and submariner Tim Ryan with two runners in scoring position and only one down. A sharp single by Bennett knocks in Manrique, Bennett steals and Dinizo is hit to load the bases with still only one out. Taliaferro notches a sac fly to center, Northern Iowa gets two in the inning. Bottom 5th It’s pitcher roulette here at the Metrodome tonight. Zach Zirbel is the Panthers third pitcher of the evening. He works through Minnesota quickly and the Gophers go back on defense. Top 6th Ryan retires the side. Bottom 6th Another pitching change for Northern Iowa, Scott Airy on the mound now. McCallum lifts one to straightaway center for his second homerun of the season, and Minnesota is back within one. Kvasnicka finally cools off a little with a strikeout and Decker goes down swinging as well to end the inning. Top 7th Ryan records two quick outs and is replaced by Dustin Klabunde, who forces a groundout to end the inning. Bottom 7th No surprise here, a new pitcher yet again for the Panthers. Righty Keith Worner keeps the Gophers off the scoreboard, his only blemish a walk to pinch-hitter Trip Schultz. Top 8th Hummel moves back to left, Schultz goes to right. Klabunde sits them down in order. Bottom 8th Top of the order for Minnesota faces Northern Iowa’s sixth pitcher of the night, Ivan Lopez. McCallum reaches with a two-out single, then advances to third on a poor pick-off attempt by Lopez. Kvasnicka stikes out again, however, and another pitcher escapes unscathed. Top 9th With one out, Klabunde is replaced by Scott Matyas, who gets two rapid outs and puts the game in the hands of the Gophers offense. Bottom 9th Two quick outs for Decker and O’Shea, then Kyle Knudson, pinch hitting for Hummel, strikes out and that’s the ballgame.