Bats come to life at Wake Forest Tournament

The Gophers won two of three to improve to .500

Andrew Baker

After a strong debut on the mound a week ago, the Gophers added some offense to the mix this weekend, winning two of three games at the Wake Forest Tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Junior outfielder Justin Gominsky, who had a breakout freshman season in 2009 before missing most of last year with a knee injury, looked like his old self, going 6-for-9 on the tournament with five runs scored and one batted in.

âÄúItâÄôs wonderful,âÄù Gominsky said of being back on the field. âÄúI take every day like it could be my last.âÄù

Aside from a four-run inning against Wake Forest in the first game Friday, which Minnesota lost 7-5, the Gophers (3-3) pitching staff continued to throw well.

After a 6-4 victory over Towson on Saturday, junior pitcher Austin Lubinsky used a 7-1 victory over Delaware State on Sunday to show why pitching coach Todd Oakes trusts him to be a regular starter.

In six and 2/3 innings of work, Lubinsky gave up four hits, one run and two walks to earn the win and improve to 1-1.

Lubinsky said he struggled to control his fastball early, but as the game wore on he began to hit his spots and force some groundouts with his changeup, which he called his âÄúgo-to pitch.âÄù

The offensive cushion provided by his teammates didnâÄôt hurt either.

âÄúSince we donâÄôt have the [Metrodome] we havenâÄôt seen much live hitting, but as the season goes on and weâÄôre outside more, I think weâÄôre just going to only get better at the plate,âÄù Lubinsky said, referencing the fact that the Gophers must practice at the cramped Gibson-Nagurski football complex in light of the MetrodomeâÄôs ruptured roof.

While some GophersâÄô bats have been off to a sluggish start this year, junior first baseman Nick OâÄôShea has been a menace at the plate. He went 6-for-12 on the weekend with a two-run home run and seven RBIs.

Junior infielder A.J. Petterson went 4-for-5 in the Towson victory, while freshman Bobby Juan and junior Trip Schultz each hit home runs in the SundayâÄôs game.

âÄúItâÄôs gotten a little bit better each day,âÄù Gophers coach John Anderson said. âÄúGuys are starting to get their timing down and starting to feel more comfortable in the batterâÄôs box.âÄù

In the Wake Forest loss, the score belied a Gophers performance that was actually pretty solid.

They led 4-2 at the seventh inning stretch, at which point Gophers reliever Billy Soule had pitched two scoreless innings, but the Deamon Deacons took advantage in the bottom half of the inning.

A one-out walk drawn by Deamon Deacons shortstop Pat Blair sparked a five-run rally enunciated by a two-run home run off the bat of 6-foot-4, 240-pound outfielder Mac Williamson.

After Kyle Geason scored from third on a Matt Puhl groundout to make it 7-5 in the eighth, Gominsky hit a one-out double, and the Gophers were in business with the tying run at second âÄî or so they thought.

Wake Forest successfully appealed that Gominsky had not touched first base, fizzling the GophersâÄô momentum before OâÄôShea struck out to end the inning.

The next day, against Towson, the Gophers put on a one-inning hitting clinic of their own, using a variety of methods âÄî namely a single, a home run, two walks, a stolen base and a Towson error âÄî to post five runs and cruise to the victory. Senior closer Scott Matyas, with typical clockwork reliability, struck out four batters and retired three straight in the ninth to pick up the save.

In addition to their offensive improvement, the weekend was error-free for the GophersâÄô defense.

âÄúGopher baseball is all about our pitching and our defense,âÄù Gominsky said, âÄúand thatâÄôs what we did this weekend.âÄù

The Gophers will head to Tuscon, Ariz., on Friday for the Dairy Queen Classic tournament, which was originally scheduled to be played at the Metrodome but had to be moved along with the rest of the teamâÄôs home games due to the Metrodome collapse.