Gophers’ season ends in regionals

Minnesota suffers losses to Arizona State, Cal State Fullerton in tourney

Dan Miller

After winning the regular season Big Ten title and the conference tournament for the first time, Minnesota’s baseball team arrived in Southern California with an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.

But the third-seeded Gophers (38-23) lost to second-seeded Cal State Fullerton, which hosted the regional tournament. They followed with a loss to first seeded Arizona State over the weekend, and were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.

The Gophers ended their season with three consecutive Big Ten titles, which they had not accomplished since 1970.

“It was a very exciting season,” senior Sam Steidl said. “We started out with losing a bunch of games early, and it was a question of how we were going to play. But we played well all through the Big Ten and won the tournament finally after winning the regular season for three straight years.”

The Gophers were ousted Saturday, after they failed to overcome a 5-0 deficit to ninth-ranked Arizona State, ultimately losing 6-4.

The Gophers gave the Sun Devils (41-17) a scare in the ninth inning by loading the bases trailing 6-4. Minnesota’s Mike Mee hit the ball hard into the outfield, but it went directly into the glove of the center fielder, and the Gophers were forced into the off-season.

Hunter, who went three-for-four with two RBIs, drew an intentionally walk before Mee’s at bat.

“You always want that last chance,” Hunter said. “I was disappointed that they walked me, but Mike (Mee) has done well for us all year. All you can ask for is a chance right there, and he got the chance.”

Minnesota started to fight back in the fourth inning. Andfirst baseman Andy Hunter threw the first punch.

Hunter gave Minnesota its first run, hitting a solo home run off the Sun Devils’ ace pitcher, Jason Urquidez. In the sixth, Hunter brought Luke MacLean home with an RBI single to right field. Minnesota catcher Jake Elder followed with a sacrifice to score shortstop Matt Fornasiere, and cut the Arizona State lead to 5-3.

Hunter continued producing for the Gophers in the eighth inning. He hit a lead-off double and was driven home by teammate Mike Mee, which cut the Minnesota deficit to 6-4.

The Gophers’ Jay Gagner took his first loss of the season going 2 2/3 innings. Gagner ended the season with a 5-1 record, but gave up four hits and three earned runs while striking out two in his final collegiate start.

“We had to fight from behind the whole game and I’m proud of our guys,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “Our bullpen helped keep the game in reach, but we just couldn’t get the big hit. We gave ourselves an excellent chance and were one hit away from winning the game.”

Titans crush Gophers

The Gophers were only able to muster four hits against Cal State Fullerton senior, right-hander Jason Windsor on Friday, and fell to the Titans 7-1.

Windsor struck out 11 in a complete game for the Titans (38-21).

Cal State broke the game open in the sixth inning, as they put together four consecutive hits against the Gophers’ ace, Glen Perkins. Ronnie Prettyman led the assault. He hit a two-run triple and helped the Titans put up five runs in the inning.

“Fullerton was able to put the bat on the ball and get the timely hits when they needed them,” Perkins said. “I have to give credit where credit is due because I thought that I had most of their hitters thinking twice about what I was pitching, but they were able to get the bat on the ball and find the holes in the defense more often than we could.”

Elder hit a solo home run over the left-field fence in the eighth inning, which broke up Windsor’s shutout opportunity.

“We were not able to get the hits when we needed them,” Anderson said. “I cannot take anything away from Fullerton, because they are one of the best teams in the country and proved it tonight.”

The Gophers four seniors Jeff Moen, Gary Dick, Sam Steidl, Craig Molldrem and Jay Gagner finished their careers with a 149-83 overall record. They produced an 82-34 Big Ten record and made three appearances in the NCAA Regional Tournament.