Baseball team wins Big Ten tournament title

Anthony Maggio

Over the weekend Minnesota’s baseball team perceived through adverse weather and tough opponents, winning four straight games to claim the Big Ten tournament championship.

The Gophers defeated Michigan 3-2 Sunday afternoon in the championship game to end a long weekend of baseball, and now await NCAA championship seeding by the tournament committee.

“We’re playing pretty good baseball right now and we’re peaking at the right time,” second baseman Luke Appert said. “Everyone is pretty excited about the upcoming weekend.”

Minnesota played its first game on Wednesday with Mike Kobow going the distance in a 4-2 victory over Penn State, a game postponed an hour and a half by rain.

Showers altered play for much of the weekend, forcing the Gophers to wait two days before facing Illinois on Saturday.

Minnesota showed no sign of rust, however, putting six runs on the board in the first inning en route to a 15 run outburst.

Jack Hannahan, who was named Big Ten player of the year last Wednesday, tied a Big Ten tournament record with seven RBI in the game. Hannahan produced nine RBI on the weekend, earning tournament MVP honors.

“I just relaxed and played my game and whatever happened, happened,” Hannahan said. “I wasn’t going to be disappointed if I didn’t play well. I didn’t feel like I had to prove anything to anyone.”

Up 15-7 in the ninth, Minnesota allowed four runs before closing out Illinois by a final of 15-11. The victory led to a meeting with Ohio State on Sunday, who swept the Gophers in all four meetings this season.

“This was kind of what everyone was waiting for – a big game against Ohio State,” Appert said. “It was definitely the biggest game of the tournament.”

Minnesota led the Buckeyes 5-2 after seven innings, but gave up three runs in the top of the eighth to knot the game. The Gophers came right back in the bottom half of the inning, however, with Appert singling in the go-ahead run to give the team a 6-5 victory.

The victory was stained when pitcher Mike Kobow made an obscene gesture towards the Ohio State players after a “very emotional” game, for which he later apologized.

“When you sign up to coach you take the good with the bad and use opportunities like this to help kids learn,” coach John Anderson said.

In the championship game, Minnesota used timely hitting and a Michigan error to score two runs in the seventh inning and give senior Ben Birk the victory.

“(Birk) had a courageous outing out there,” Anderson said. “It just blew me away as a coach.”

The Gophers will find out Monday afternoon who and where they play in the NCAA regionals next weekend. Anderson said Minnesota will most likely play at Notre Dame or Nebraska.

“I just hope that it’s close enough that some of our fans can watch,” Anderson said. “That’s the fun part.”

The selection show will be on ESPN Monday at 2p.m.

 

Anthony Maggio welcomes comments at [email protected]