Bullpen boosts U at Northern Iowa

Sarah Mitchell

WATERLOO, Iowa — The Gophers starting pitching rotation was left at home on Tuesday as Minnesota’s baseball team traveled to Northern Iowa.
Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes decided to use the midweek game as a test for his bullpen and the relievers responded to pull Minnesota (20-7 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten) through a 6-5, 10th-inning win.
“I thought the pitchers did a nice job of coming in and picking each other up,” Oakes said. “That was key.”
The pitching staff was vital. While the defensive miscues that plagued the team over the past weekend’s series at Purdue disappeared, timely hitting remained a problem. The Gophers stranded 14 runners.
Designated hitter Aron Amundson took advantage of runners on board in the top of the first. Amundson drilled his team-leading fifth home run of the season off Panthers starter Jere Bunkers to drive in three runs.
Bunkers was never effective on the mound, allowing seven hits and four earned runs through 2.1 innings of work.
Meanwhile, Gophers reliever Kurt Haring took the mound in his first career start. Haring held the Panthers hitless until the bottom of the third. With one away, the reliever surrendered his second dinger of the season, a solo shot to Jesse Zimmer.
“I screwed up on that pitch,” Haring said. “I left it high in the strike zone.”
Haring remained on the mound for a longer stint than usual. The sophomore stretched his normal pitch count of about 25 to more than 60, allowing five hits and three earned runs in four innings of work .
After reliever Nathan Bennett’s short five-pitch appearance, all of which were out of the strike zone, Amundson set his batting gloves aside and proved that he can be productive from the mound, too.
The infielder/outfielder/pitcher threw 2.1 innings of relief for the Gophers while also attempting to hit for the cycle. On the mound the lanky pitcher faced eight Panthers, striking out two while surrendering two hits.
From the plate, Amundson went 3-for-3 (a home run, double and single) and walked three times.
“He can get the job done on the mound,” Oakes said. “And he can get the job done in the batter’s box.”
Minnesota needed Amundson’s offensive spark and mid-game relief. Northern Iowa’s relievers Scott Miller and Aaron Lubach combined to stall the Gophers hitters while the Panthers surged from behind to tie the score at five and send the game into extra innings.
Senior Robb Quinlan provided the timely hit in the top of the tenth. With two down and Jason Kenney on second base, Quinlan doubled to left field, allowing Kennedy to cross the plate with the game-winning run.
Gophers reliever Jason Shupe secured the non-conference victory for the Minnesota. Shupe led his team through the game’s final innings, striking out five of the 13 batters he faced.
“I’m pleased with (the pitching staff) performance today,” Oakes said. “We got a lot of guys on the mound and they all did their part.”
Minnesota’s starting pitchers will be back on the mound this weekend. The Gophers continue the conference season with a four game series at Iowa.

AB R H RBI
R. Brosseau 6 1 2 0
Scanlon 5 1 1 0
Quinlan 5 1 3 1
Amundson 3 1 3 3
Hannahan 6 0 1 1
Holthaus 4 1 2 1
Arlt 3 0 1 0
Howard 2 0 0 0
Kennedy 5 1 1 0
Nuss 2 0 0 0
Totals 41 6 14 6