Gophers rally to topple Purdue

Justin GominskyâÄôs face gave away nothing. The sly smile he carried is almost a permanent picture on his face. Nothing about how he acted suggested the Minnesota baseball team had just pulled off a 9th inning comeback victory. It especially didnâÄôt suggest he had just hit a walk-off sacrifice fly. But thatâÄôs exactly what happened. The Gophers mounted a three-run rally in the bottom of the last inning to sneak past Purdue 4-3 Friday night at the Metrodome. After 8 innings of dominating Minnesota hitters, Boilermakers starter Matt BischoffâÄôs 9th inning was quite unexpected. Redshirt freshman shortstop AJ Pettersen led off with a single. Derek McCallum walked. Suddenly, Bischoff became something he hadnâÄôt been all game âÄì vulnerable. And sophomore right fielder Michael Kvasnicka sensed it. He sent a two-run double to the wall and the teams were back to level pegging. âÄúTwo guys on with nobody out and everybody kind of gets that feeling âÄì that three runs is possible,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúMaybe thatâÄôs a little bit flawed on our part not to look at it like that the whole way because itâÄôs not like we were down by a ton the whole game.âÄù Flawed or not, Minnesota got the feeling at the right time, and with the bases loaded, a new pitcher on the mound, and one out, Gominsky sent a ball deep enough for junior catcher Kyle Knudson to tag up and scamper home as the winning run. âÄúI was trying to stay inside the ball and not do too much,âÄù Gominsky said. âÄúI was just trying to get the ball in the outfield and let the rest happen.âÄù âÄúThe kid has a unique ability to let things pass over the top and not get too caught up in a situation or the score or whatâÄôs going on around him,âÄù head coach John Anderson said. âÄúHe just puts his energy into playing the game.âÄù Which explains why he shrugged off his late-game heroics as just another day at the ballpark, and more importantly, why he was able to coolly stroke that line drive into right. The game will be remembered for the ninth inning, and rightfully so. Destined to be lost in the shuffle is the pitchers dual that dominated the early innings and a pair of critical defensive plays that kept the game within reach before MinnesotaâÄôs late game heroics. BischoffâÄôs ninth inning was not at all representative of his outing. He thoroughly baffled Gophers hitters for eight innings with a sharply tailing slider and well-located fastballs and changeups. PettersenâÄôs single was just MinnesotaâÄôs sixth hit and McCallumâÄôs walk just the second free pass issued by Bischoff. Starting for the Gophers, Chauncy HandranâÄôs evening followed a similar arc. He was nearly flawless through 6 innings before giving up a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh. He worked through that inning without further damage, but the Boilermakers loaded the bases in the top of the 8th before Handran could record an out, bringing his night to an end. âÄúI really like watching him pitch,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúNothingâÄôs straight. EverythingâÄôs going one way or the other and he gets all these ground ball outs. He was just on his game tonight.âÄù Handran threw in some flashy defense as well. With one out and runners on the corners in the top of the 3rd, PurdueâÄôs Eric Charles laid down a bunt for a safety squeeze. Coming from third, Alex Jaffee thought he had time to scamper home, but Handran sprung off the mound, scooped up the ball and flipped it to Knudson, who made the tag to keep the game scoreless. In the 8th, when the Boilermakers jumped to their two-run lead, junior second baseman Derek McCallumâÄôs dart of a throw home on what looked like it would be a two-run double by John Cummins kept it to one and ended the inning. Without those inning-ending plays, the GophersâÄô three runs in the ninth are just a dent in PurdueâÄôs lead rather than the game winning runs, a fact not lost on Anderson. âÄúThose are the little things that make a difference at the end of the game.âÄù