Minn. tops Iowa after blown lead

by Trevor Born

Winding down its worst season in more than a half-century, the Gophers baseball team may have hit its lowest point this weekend.

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North dakota state
what: Baseball
when: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday
where: Fargo, N.D.

In a game they won.

Facing last-place Iowa, the Gophers (18-29, 8-16 Big Ten) narrowly missed one of the biggest meltdowns in program history Sunday and split their four-game series with the Hawkeyes.

The Gophers led 14-5 in the sixth inning, but lost the lead and needed a three-run homerun from catcher Jeff DeSmidt in the top of the 11th to win 17-14.

“It has nothing to do with winning or losing,” head coach John Anderson said. “We won the game and it’s still unacceptable that we won like we did. I can’t take a lot of positives from the game.”

Three Gophers pitchers combined to give up seven runs in the seventh inning of the game. True freshman Cullen Sexton was charged with four earned runs while getting just two outs in the inning.

Phil Isaksson, holding onto a 14-12 lead with the bases loaded, threw three wild pitches in the same at-bat against Ryan Gryzwa to tie the game.

“When we were up and then we saw them coming back, I’m sure we all thought the same thing: ‘Here we go again,’ ” reliever Scott Matyas, who pitched the final three and one-fifth innings for the Gophers, giving up no runs and two hits, said. “Even though you’re trying not to think about it, it creeps into your head.”

“This could’ve been a heartbreaker and defined our whole season,” he added. “But we fought together as a group and it didn’t happen.”

The Hawkeyes scored all seven runs in the inning on just one hit and a single, as the three Gophers pitchers combined for five walks, one error and three wild pitches in the inning.

“First of all, in my opinion, it’s an unacceptable performance by our team from beginning to end,” Anderson said. “The only positive that came out of it is that we came back and won the game, if you even want to call that a positive. It’s unacceptable for this program at Minnesota to perform like we did in the latter half of that game. There’s not a lot to be happy about today.”

DeSmidt led the Gophers offense, finishing the weekend 7-for-13 with seven RBIs. Junior Matt Nohelty went 7-for-19.

Matyas had one of the few successful pitching outings for the Gophers. Tom Buske went six and one-third innings giving up four earned runs in Minnesota’s win Friday, but the other three starters combined to throw thirteen and one-fifth innings, giving up 12 runs and 22 hits.

With the three losses, the team is now a lock to finish a losing record for the first time in 46 years and will likely finish with the worst record since 1929.

“Enough’s enough,” DeSmidt said Sunday. “We overcame ourselves today. Let’s start playing the game the way we’re supposed to play it. We have a lot of ability on the team. It’s nice to be able to screw up that much and come back and win a ball game, but that’s not always going to fly.”