VanderAarde leads Minnesota to 7-3 win

Hitting leadoff, Taylor VanderAarde keyed the Gophers’ win over North Dakota State.

by Matt Perkins

When the leadoff runner gets on, it’s hard to stop Minnesota’s baseball team.

Especially when you have the speed the Gophers do.

Sophomore Taylor VanderAarde led the way in the leadoff spot by going 1-for-2, with three stolen bases and two runs Tuesday, and the Gophers beat North Dakota State 7-3 at Newman Outdoor Stadium in Fargo, N.D.

With the win, the Gophers improved their record to 22-16 overall, and they sit 12-4 in the Big Ten.

VanderAarde got the start at the top with usual leadoff hitter Matt Fornasiere moving to the third spot in the lineup.

VanderAarde started the game with a walk and stole second base right away. Fornasiere followed that up with a one-out walk, and Mike Mee drove VanderAarde in to give the Gophers an early 1-0 lead.

They didn’t let up in the top of the second, scoring another run when David Hrncirik knocked in Jeremy Chlan to extend the lead to 2-0.

The Bison (3-32-1) fought back in the second, scoring on an error by Chlan to cut the Gophers’ lead in half.

North Dakota State, which is in its first year in Division I, took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning when Marcus McKenzie replaced Gophers starting pitcher Gary Perinar and gave up a two-out RBI single to Nathan Thomas.

McKenzie then settled down and retired the next four batters to keep the lead at 3-2 heading into the top half of the sixth inning.

That’s when VanderAarde made his presence known again.

He led off the inning with a single to center field, then stole second base and advanced to third on a balk. Hrncirik scored him with a groundout.

Fornasiere got things going again in the sixth with a one-out single to right. Mee, Andy Hunter and Jeff DeSmidt all followed Fornasiere with singles of their own, with an RBI from Hunter and another run scoring on a passed ball.

After the rally was over, the Gophers led 5-3, and McKenzie refused to let the Bison back in again.

McKenzie held them scoreless in his last 5 1/3 innings of his 6-inning performance, picking up the win and improving to 2-2.

Helping McKenzie along the way offensively was Fornasiere, who went 2-for-5 with a stolen base and a run. Hrncirik had two RBIs.

The Gophers had five stolen bases in the game, moving their season total to a Big Ten-best 69.

And, specifically, coach John Anderson must have liked what he saw out of VanderAarde.

A sophomore who sees most of his action as a pinch runner and pinch hitter for the Gophers, VanderAarde made a statement with his three stolen bases.

Anderson has said he likes putting Hrncirik and Fornasiere in RBI slots of the lineup, and, at least for one game, VanderAarde gave him that chance.