Gophers baseball team concludes surprise year

The team won the Big Ten regular season title for the first time since 2010.

by Jack White

Minnesota’s season came to an end Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but the team still had a year marked by success. 

The Gophers fought back from a 0-1 record in the College Station Regional to win two consecutive games but fell in the final game 8-2 against No. 1 Texas A&M. It was Minnesota’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.

“Trying to figure out what day it is and what time it is here but anyway congratulations to Texas A&M,” said head coach John Anderson after the game. “Very, very proud of our team, the way we fought back here after losing the first game and [of the] long day we put in today.”

The Gophers made their chances of regional success slim after they dropped the opening game in College Station, Texas, to Wake Forest University 5-3.  

Minnesota outhit Wake Forest 8-7 in the game, but the Gophers stranded eight men on base. 

Minnesota then found themselves in a must-win situation Saturday afternoon, and defeated Binghamton 8-5 to stay alive. 

Senior Ty McDevitt pitched three and a third scoreless innings to earn the victory. Redshirt junior Jordan Smith led the Gophers at bat with three hits, including a solo homerun.

Minnesota avenged its early loss against Wake Forest in the third game of the regional. The Gophers pitching staff held the Demon Deacons to just three runs while a four-run eighth inning for Minnesota led them to an 8-3 victory to advance to the regional final. 

Sophomore Lucas Gillbreath made his debut start and gave up just one earned run in four and two thirds innings of work. Junior Brian Glowicki and redshirt senior Jordan Jess gave up one run each out of the bullpen to help the Gophers hold on to the lead. Minnesota had 15 hits on eight runs.

The Gophers outhit the Aggies in the final game, but only managed two runs. Texas A&M had six hits and Minnesota’s three pitchers combined for seven walks and eight earned runs in the loss. 

Junior Austin Athmann went 2-3 in the final and drove in the only two runs for Minnesota.

“It wasn’t too bad,” Athmann said. “We knew we had to play our best ball to take one away from any of these teams. [We] looked back and said, ‘Hey, we have nothing to lose,’ and started playing baseball the best way we can. I think everyone turned around and said, ‘We’re sick of losing.’”

Minnesota had a season full of accomplishments despite its early departure from the NCAA Tournament. The team won its first outright Big Ten title since 2010 on May 20 and was ranked inside the top 25 for the first time since 2009. 

The team returns all but five of its players for the 2017 season, including Big Ten Player of the Year Matt Fiedler, who was Minnesota’s second-best batter this season and pitched 89.2 innings.

“I think we have a really strong core group of young guys coming up, and now they have experience under their belt,” Fiedler said. “Next year we should be looking to kind of replicate the season and maybe go further with the experience that came with.”