Gophers walk off the Buckeyes in 18 innings

Gabe Knowles hit an RBI single up the middle to give the Gophers a 5-4 victory in the bottom of the 18th inning.

Outfielder Easton Bertrand swings at bat at Siebert Field on Friday, March 29, 2019. 

Image by Jack Rodgers

Outfielder Easton Bertrand swings at bat at Siebert Field on Friday, March 29, 2019. 

by Jack Warrick

Fans unexpectedly got two games for the price of one on Saturday at Siebert Field.

Minnesota baseball played one of the longest games, if not the longest game, in its history Saturday afternoon in what was supposed to be a double-header against Ohio State.

“There’s been a lot of games that have happened [in my career], but I just can’t remember anything like that,” head coach John Anderson said about the game, which ran for 5 hours and 45 minutes. 

Gophers catcher Eli Wilson sent the game into extras when he singled to left field and scored second baseman Zack Raabe to tie the game 4-4. A pitching duel ensued for an entire extra game of innings until the bottom of the 18th inning when designated hitter Gabe Knowles drove in the game-winning run with a single up the middle to win 5-4 at Siebert Field.

Knowles said he knew he had the game-winner right when he took off down the first base line. He flipped his bat high into the air, and the team ran out on the field with a Powerade cooler and drenched him in a mosh pit.

“It felt good. We had a lot of opportunities early on and we didn’t capitalize,” said Knowles, who had only 3 RBIs and 18 at bats on the season going into the game. “I haven’t had that many opportunities. I haven’t had that many at bats. So when I do get the opportunity, I make sure to make the most of it.”

The Gophers left 22 runners on base in the game, a stat Anderson said was probably also record-setting. The Gophers relief pitchers allowed no runs after starter Max Meyer gave up four in seven and one-third innings of work. Gophers’ sophomore pitcher Patrick Fredrickson recorded the win. He came in for the 17th inning, pitched two innings and kept the Buckeyes scoreless.

“Everyone that went out and threw today threw really well, and I just knew that some point our offense was going to come through, and they did,” said Fredrickson, who recovered from an injury and recorded his first win since Feb. 23 in the second series of the year. “I’m just looking to build off of every single time I go out there. I got full strength back, I believe, in my arm.”

Gophers’ outfielder Ben Mezzenga led Minnesota in batting, going 3-for-7. He suffered a foot injury late in the game, and Anderson said he didn’t think he would play in the double-header that was rescheduled to 10 a.m. Sunday. Wilson was beaned three times in the game. Ohio State pitcher Will Pfennig took the loss, pitching the final third and one-third innings of the game.

Outfielder Easton Bertrand said the Gophers used antics to stay lively as the game crept to one of the longest in Gophers’ history.

“We had guys with their jerseys backwards, hats backwards, pants even backwards some guys. We had a Twinkies box on some guys head,” Bertrand said. “We knew something would eventually happen.”

Friday’s game was rescheduled to Saturday because of rain, and a Big Ten rule that says no games can start after 9 p.m. 

On Friday morning, Gophers’ baseball players Sam Bridges, Nolan Burchill, Jack Wassel, Nick Lackney, Danny Kapala, Chase Stankey, Drew Hmielewski and Eli Wilson went to breakfast with graduate assistant athletic trainer Emily Aaron to comfort her after her grandfather died a few days before.

“It’s always been about more than just baseball here,” Aaron tweeted on Friday. “And I cannot thank them enough for all the love and support. I will always stand by my word that Gopher Baseball is unlike anything else.”

Anderson said his goal as a coach has always been to teach more than just the sport.

“My core philosophy is to prepare people for the next 50 years of their life, teach them life lessons and teach them how to take an interest in others,” Anderson said. “It can’t be just about you, it’s about helping other people. So I’m glad they’re listening.”