Minnesota advances to the Super Regional round for the first time

Minnesota advances past the regional round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 41 years.

Centerfielder Alex Boxwell hits a double, increasing the lead to 12-5 during the game against the UCLA Bruins on Sunday, June 3 at Siebert Field.

Tony Saunders

Centerfielder Alex Boxwell hits a double, increasing the lead to 12-5 during the game against the UCLA Bruins on Sunday, June 3 at Siebert Field.

David Mullen

In a rematch of an extra-inning nail biter the previous night, the Gophers didn’t lose their magic at Siebert Field Sunday in front of 2,425 fans, a record crowd. 

The Gophers (44-13) won their third straight game after topping UCLA (38-21) 13-8 for the second time of the weekend in the NCAA baseball regional in Minneapolis.

“As long as we are in this ball park with this team … good things are going to happen to us,” head coach John Anderson said.

Minnesota had a six-run fourth inning that clinched its first ever berth to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament, which will be held in Corvallis, Oregon next weekend. The Gophers will take on Oregon State in a three-game series. 

Pitching was not much of a factor early— both the Gophers and Bruins scored in each of the first three innings. 

“We couldn’t do much on the mound and opened up the flood gates [offensively,]” UCLA head coach John Savage said.

The score was 7-5 in favor of the Gophers in the fourth when Minnesota’s batters heated up. 

After the Gophers got the bases loaded in the fourth, catcher Eli Wilson and infielder Micah Coffey hit back-to-back singles, putting the Gophers ahead 9-5. First baseman Cole McDevitt was hit by a pitch and was followed up by a double hit by centerfielder Alex Boxwell, increasing the lead to 12-5. 

UCLA pitcher Michael Townsend threw a passed ball which scored McDevitt. After the fourth, the Gophers had a 13-5 lead and never looked back.

“We were prepared to come out, string together good at bats and put up some runs,” Boxwell said.

After a close game on Saturday where the Gophers won 3-2 in 10 innings, the regional championship game saw Minnesota play its second straight game against UCLA.

UCLA took an early lead in the top of the first when leadoff hitter Jeremy Ydens reached base on an error and eventually scored.

The Bruins answered back after Minnesota tied it in the first by opening the second with a single from designated hitter Jack Stronach. After a sacrifice bunt which advanced Stronach, he scored on the following play after outfielder Garrett Mitchell hit a double.

The Gophers fired back, scoring three runs of their own in the bottom half of the second off a three-run home run by Toby Hanson that put the Gophers ahead 4-2. 

The bats for both sides cooled off after the fourth inning. Only three more runs were scored, all by UCLA.

In the bottom of the ninth with two outs and an 0-2 count to pinch hitter Jake Hirabayashi, Gophers pitcher Fred Manke blew a fastball past him, a called third strike to end the game. 

The crowd of almost 2,500 fans roared as the Gophers advanced past regional round for the first time in 41 years.

Five Minnesota players were selected to the all-tournament team: pitcher Max Meyer, Coffey, Boxwell, Hanson and Terrin Vavra, who was also selected the tournament’s most outstanding player.