No. 21 Minnesota beats South Dakota State in midweek battle

The Gophers have won 10 of the last 11 games.

Infielder Terrin Vavra swings at a pitch during a game against South Dakota State at Siebert Field on Wednesday.

Image by Alex Tuthill-Preus

Infielder Terrin Vavra swings at a pitch during a game against South Dakota State at Siebert Field on Wednesday.

by Jack Warrick

Amid a time of cancelations and postponements, the Gophers faced South Dakota State (10-23) for the second time of the season in a midweek game, a contest that was originally scheduled for April 17. 

Minnesota (26-11, 9-2 Big Ten) earned its 10th victory in 11 games after a 6-2 victory against the Jackrabbits in the second game of the season at Siebert Field Wednesday.

“It’s kind of weird, playing a midweek game,” head coach John Anderson said. “Trying to get your mindset squared away for playing in the middle of the week and what you want to do in practice.”

For the Gophers, a monster sixth inning ensured victory. Outfielder Toby Hanson and catcher Cole McDevitt combined for five runs batted in, including three in the sixth inning. 

Hanson broke the tie with a single to the left side, scoring designated hitter Riley Smith. McDevitt, the next batter, hit a single to the gap in right-center to score both Hanson and infielder Terrin Vavra.

The Gophers increased their lead in the bottom of the eighth to finish with a 6-2 victory.

McDevitt would finish 2-3 with three RBIs and a walk. He started at catcher for the first time in almost a month.

“It’s fun to be able to have some influence on the game, or a little bit more than first base,” McDevitt said. 

Nick Lackney started on the mound and pitched six innings with seven strikeouts allowing two runs and six hits. Lackney allowed a tying run in the top of the fifth inning after two wild pitches scored South Dakota State’s Gus Steiger.

Relief pitcher Jeff Fasching came in for Lackney in the seventh and allowed no runs and two hits in his two innings of service. Fred Manke pitched the final inning to seal the victory.

“The best part for me tonight was [Lackney]. I thought he showed some improvement,” Anderson said. “I thought he did a nice job.”

South Dakota State struck first with a run in the top of the second inning. Minnesota erased that lead, however, in the bottom of the fourth inning. Hanson — in his first game back to the outfield after a hand injury — tied the game 1-1 with a sacrifice ground ball, scoring Luke Pettersen from third base.

The next batter, Cole McDevitt, hit a single up the middle to score Terrin Vavra from second base to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead headed into the fifth inning.

Minnesota elected to changeup the usual order. Two of the top five hitters for Minnesota — catcher Eli Wilson and outfielder Ben Mezzenga — were left in the dugout with their positions filled.

Freshman Easton Bertrand had his first start in the outfield on Wednesday evening. He was pulled for usual-starter Mezzenga after striking out in his only at bat. In the field, he had one put out in the contest from a fly ball.

The Gophers return to Big Ten play after the one-game break. They will head to Columbus, Ohio for a three-game series against Ohio State (27-11, 8-2 Big Ten) starting on Friday at 5:35 p.m.

“Ohio State’s a good team, we’re going to have to play well,” Wilson said. “I think we just got to really grind out the at bats this weekend and not take anything for granted.”