Gophers’ infielders produce runs, grabs

Infield combines for 24 hits and two errors in the four games of the tournament.

Dan Miller

Gophers first baseman Andy Hunter smashed Trey Fausnaugh’s first pitch 377 feet over the right field fence to give the Gophers a comfortable 6-0 sixth-inning lead over Ohio State on Sunday.

While dominant pitching was instrumental in the Gophers winning the Big Ten Tournament at Siebert Field, Gophers coach John Anderson made sure to throw some credit to his infield. Hunter and the Gophers’ other four infielders produced 24 hits in the tournament and had only two errors in four games.

Playing much of the tournament without outfielder and offensive leader Sam Steidl, who suffered a hand injury, the Gophers’ infield responded by delivering hits from behind the plate.

“Lately we’re getting a lot more production from our infield and not our outfield,” Anderson said. “It’s a little abnormal, but that is the nature of our team.”

Minnesota’s abnormal infield produced its top hitters of the tournament with second baseman Jared Sanders and shortstop Matt Fornasiere hitting .417 and .375 respectively in the four games. Hunter led the team with five RBIs.

Another infielder, junior David Hrncirik, wasn’t among the Gophers’ leaders in averages during the regular season, but he came up with big hits all weekend. The third baseman had two RBIs to lead the Gophers in the title game and recorded five hits in the tournament.

“Getting clutch hits is about being confident and relaxed at the plate,” Hrncirik said. “I know that someone is going to come in and get it done after me if I don’t. That is the confidence this team has.”

The confident Gophers’ infield also helped secure the tournament title in the field. They helped Minnesota pitchers post a 2.00 ERA for the tournament in 36 innings.

Sunday, the infield held off the hard-hitting Buckeyes by making timely plays in the field. None were more apt than the sixth-inning double play. With the bases loaded and only one out, Josh Krogman forced a double-play ball that went to second and ended in the glove of a fully extended Hunter at first base.

“The infield has stepped it up,” Hrncirik said. “It seems like a new person in our infield has gotten a big play or key hit each game.”

Four stand out

The media named four Gophers to the All-Tournament team including the Most Outstanding Player – Glen Perkins.

Andy Hunter was named as the first baseman, Matt Fornasiere was selected at shortstop and Jay Gagner was named as an outstanding pitcher.

Having two of the three pitchers on the All-Tournament team illuminated the quality performances the Gophers received from their starting pitchers.

“All of our pitchers this weekend went out and threw strikes and put up zeros for us,” Hunter said. “They gave us a chance all year and they gave us a chance in the tournament and we were able to get it done for them.”