Minnesota takes two of three close games from Iowa

The Gophers lost in extra innings Sunday but won the series to improve to 26-20.

Minnesota infielder Dan Olinger slides into second base as Iowa's Jake Mangler throws the ball to first base Friday at the Metrodome.

Mark Vancleave

Minnesota infielder Dan Olinger slides into second base as Iowa’s Jake Mangler throws the ball to first base Friday at the Metrodome.

Samuel Gordon

Paying customers were rewarded with some free baseball Sunday. It took 12 innings for Iowa to beat Minnesota 5-4.

Still, the Gophers took two of three from the Hawkeyes and improved to 9-6 in the Big Ten.

Every game essentially came down to the wire, with one run being the margin of victory in all three.

“These guys play hard. They’re going to fight until the last inning,” Minnesota third baseman Kyle Geason said. “They’d strike at us, and we’d come back.”

On Friday, Minnesota welcomed back starting center fielder Troy Larson, who was sidelined for three weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

Catcher Matt Halloran’s two-run home run, his second of the season, lifted the Gophers (26-20) to a victory.

With the game tied at 3-3 in the fifth inning, Halloran sent Jarred Hippen’s offering into the seats and helped Minnesota to a 5-3 lead.

“He was throwing a lot of off-speed all game. I was sitting on a change-up,” Halloran said. “I got one up and in and put a good swing on it.”

Gophers ace TJ Oakes didn’t have his best stuff, but he threw 7.1 innings of one-run ball. He picked up the win and improved to 7-2 this season.

“He kept competing out there,” head coach John Anderson said. “He did a very good job of managing the momentum for us.”

Tom Windle threw the last 1.2 innings, picked up his first save of the season, and the Gophers won 5-4. Halloran was 1-for-2 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Kyle Geason was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Halloran drove in the game-winning run Saturday, too, via a walk in the bottom of the ninth inning.

In a back-and-forth game dominated by pitching, the Gophers trailed 3-2 going into the eighth inning. But Kurt Schlangen scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

In the bottom of the ninth, David Bettenburg and JT Canakes singled consecutively, Andy Henkemeyer was intentionally walked, and two batters later, Halloran walked on four pitches.

Minnesota’s DJ Snelten allowed three runs, two earned, in 7.2 innings. Matt Dermody allowed three runs, one earned, in 7.1 innings for Iowa (17-22).

The teams went back and forth throughout the evening Sunday, but the Gophers seized control and held a 4-3 lead to the eighth inning.

However, Hawkeyes pinch hitter Bryan Niedbalski crushed an RBI-double into the left-center field gap to tie the game at four.

Minnesota had several chances to win the game in extra innings and had runners in scoring position in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings. The Gophers stranded 13 runners on the afternoon.

Iowa reliever Nick Hibbing struck out Matt Puhl to end the game with the tying run just 90 feet away.

“You’ve got to give [Iowa] some credit,” Anderson said. “Our guys competed. … We had all kinds of chances to win the game. We didn’t get the big hit.”

Puhl was 3-for-6 and scored twice. Halloran was 2-for-6 with an RBI.