No. 3 seed Huskies do in Gophers at NCAA regional

Brian Stensaas

Minnesota’s baseball team let the Big Ten conference tournament trophy and its automatic ticket to the NCAA field slip away last weekend, losing two games to Ohio State in one day. In both games, the Buckeyes put together five-run innings that ultimately meant the end for the Gophers.

Minnesota was paying attention.

Saturday afternoon in the second game of the NCAA tournament, which Minnesota was invited to as an at-large bid early last week, the Gophers put up a five-spot on fourth-seeded Pepperdine in the top of the ninth inning and held on for a 7-5 come-from-behind win.

The victory was coach John Anderson’s 800th in a Minnesota uniform. It also marked the Gophers’ 40th win on the year – the first time since 1999 that the program has seen a 40-win season.

However it is a dog of a tournament. The jubilation lasted all but five hours before second-seeded Minnesota had to go back to work in a nightcap game at the Long Beach State regional. And no one expected the five runs scored earlier in the day would just about be the Gophers’ last of the year.

The Gophers (40-22) were eliminated by third-seeded Washington 4-1 on Saturday night, capping a grueling season.

The Huskies (42-18) took control in the bottom of the third inning, scoring three runs off Minnesota starter Matt Loberg. The right-hander had two outs in the inning before Chad Boudon went yard to make it a 3-0 game.

Minnesota’s only run of the game came in the sixth inning. After Luke Appert reached on an error, Scott Welch’s single up the middle put runners on second and first with nobody out. Jake Elder’s fielder’s choice groundball put Appert on third and he was knocked home by Jon Becker’s RBI single in the next at-bat. It would prove to be the Gophers’ final run of the season.

The Gophers opened the tournament with a 5-3 loss to Washington on Friday night.

Minnesota struggled to be ahead throughout the game. The Huskies loaded the bases in the top of the first and scored on Boudon’s sacrifice fly. The Gophers answered in the bottom half of the inning when Tony Leseman scored on a Washington balk.

Down 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth with the bases loaded, Minnesota again tied the game when Sam Steidl and Ben Pattee scored on a walk and a hit batsman in successive at-bats.

The Huskies went back on top in the eighth when Tila Reynolds nabbed an RBI single scoring John Otness. Washington added an insurance run in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Otness.

Minnesota had a chance to score in the bottom of the inning with two on and two out but Huskies’ closer Will Fenton got the final out to end the game.

All-American output

Appert and freshman pitcher Glen Perkins were both named Collegiate Baseball Magazine Louisville Slugger All-Americans over the weekend.

Perkins was named to the second team while Appert was a third team selection for the second year in a row.

Perkins becomes the first Minnesota

player to be a second team member or higher since Rob Quinlan was named to the second team in 1998. Perkins had won 10-straight games before Friday night’s loss to Washington. His only other loss on the year was his first outing Feb. 23 against Arizona.

Appert closed out his Minnesota career among the top 10 in hits (2nd), doubles (2nd), home runs (8th), total bases (2nd), runs scored (t-4th), RBI (5th), games played (t-2nd), at-bats (2nd) and walks (t- 5th). He was named the Big Ten player of the year for the second consecutive season, the first to do so since Michigan’s Barry Larkin in 1984-85.

Brian Stensaas welcomes comments at [email protected]