Six in sixth leads to a Gophers win

by David McCoy

The last time Minnesota’s baseball team met South Dakota State it was a 16-11 slugfest.

After Jackrabbits leadoff hitter Jake Rogers jacked a Marcus McKenzie pitch over the left field wall in the first at-bat of the game on Wednesday night, things looked to be headed in the same direction.

But after falling behind 2-0 after the top of the first inning, the Gophers blanked the Jackrabbits the rest of the game.

And a six-run sixth inning pushed Minnesota past South Dakota State to win 9-2 in front of an announced crowd of 574 at the Metrodome.

“We had a wild game with them out in South Dakota, and I thought it was maybe going to be another one of those games,” coach John Anderson said. “But I thought Marcus did a nice job; we did a nice job on minimizing that inning and not turning it into a big inning.”

Freshman catcher Chris Herbert got Minnesota (21-17, 8-8 Big Ten) on the board with a one-out solo home run to left field in the bottom of the fifth.

The home run off Caleb Thielbar was the first of Herbert’s Gophers career.

“He was juicing me up with fastballs because that’s how he (struck) me out last time,” Herbert said. “He was still hitting his spots, he just made a little mistake and I took advantage of it.”

Anderson said Herbert will catch this weekend’s series against Illinois.

Minnesota shortstop Dan Lyons led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to right field, then stole second. Then Christian Larson issued a pair of walks to Mike Mee and Andy Hunter to load the bases with nobody out.

South Dakota State (18-22) replaced Larson with Jake Angier and Minnesota’s Anderson elected to pinch-hit Kyle Baran for Sean Kommerstad.

Baran promptly singled to right field, driving in a pair of runs to put Minnesota ahead 3-2.

Two straight wild pitches by Angier scored Hunter and moved Baran to third, and after Leseman grounded out, pinch-hitter Nick Biagini intentionally walked.

Both scored when Bryan Jost pinch-hit for Herbert and hit a bases-clearing, two-RBI double off the center field wall to put the Gophers up 6-2. Jeremy Chlan singled to knock in Jost before Dalton Decker finally got the Jackrabbits out of the inning.

“We just try and get that leadoff guy on, move him over, get him in scoring position,” Baran said. “It’s always a battle with these guys, it’s a slugfest each time. When we got base runners on we just wanted to keep moving the ball and try and get some runs.”

Minnesota did more damage in the bottom of the seventh, as Baran drove in Kevin Carlson with a triple to the right center field gap. Then Leseman singled home Baran for Minnesota’s ninth run of the game.

Gary Perinar (4-1) picked up the win for the Gophers, but Anderson still praised McKenzie (three innings, four hits, two runs, two earned runs, one walk, three strikeouts) despite giving up the two first-inning runs.

“Marcus hasn’t been able to pitch a lot, hasn’t been able to work a lot in games,” Anderson said. “I thought his stuff was up in the zone early. And as he went along he got the ball back down into the strike zone and I give him credit.”