Gophers slug their way to home victory

Nine Minnesota players combined for 15 hits in the midweek contest.

Gophers catcher Austin Athmann runs to first base after hitting a home run at Siebert Field where the Gophers played against Saint Mary's on Wednesday afternoon.

Joe Sulik

Gophers catcher Austin Athmann runs to first base after hitting a home run at Siebert Field where the Gophers played against Saint Mary’s on Wednesday afternoon.

Kaitlin Merkel

The Gophers’ relentless offense defeated St. Mary’s 9-1 on Wednesday at Siebert Field in the team’s second home game of the season.
 
 
Nine Gophers batters recorded 15 hits against the Cardinals to propel Minnesota (13-9) to the victory.
 
 
Junior Austin Athmann was one of six players to record two hits, and he also tallied his team-leading fifth home run of the season in the seventh inning. The home run cleared the left field fence and scored three.
 
 
Athmann entered the game with a .750 slugging percentage, and said the Gophers’ new batting facility helped him sharpen his swing this year.
 
 
“It all comes down to seeing the ball well. Especially with the new training facility, we really have our swings toned down, and I feel like mine is right where it needs to be,” Athmann said. “But it really comes down to my eyes, and I’ve really been picking up the ball swell.”
 
 
On the mound, freshman pitcher Jake Stevenson started his first collegiate game and threw for three innings. He gave up one run on two hits while striking out four and walking two.
 
 
After Stevenson left the game, relievers Jeff Fasching, Lucas Gilbreath and Tim Shannon each pitched two scoreless innings to finish out the 
contest. 
 
 
Fasching earned the victory, his first of the season.
 
 
“It’s always great to have good guys all the way through, and I think our pitching staff from top to bottom is solid,” Stevenson said. “I don’t think we have any holes.”
 
 
Head coach John Anderson said he gave Stevenson the midweek start to work on his command. 
 
 
The start was just the freshman’s third appearance of the season.
 
 
“He was a three-pitch guy in high school, and it’s been a little rougher road for him here, but it was better today,” Anderson said. “[W]hat you’re looking for is just improvement each time they step out there.”
 
 
Gilbreath’s appearance was his second of the season, and Anderson said he needed to pitch in game action. 
 
 
Shannon used his time on the mound to work on his changeup, throwing the pitch often against the Cardinals.
 
 
St. Mary’s scored its lone run of the game in the top of the first inning, but the Gophers took the lead with two runs in the fourth.
 
 
Minnesota added to its lead with two more runs in the fifth, thanks to RBI singles from junior Matt Fiedler and sophomore Micah Coffey before Athmann’s home run in the seventh extended the lead even farther.
 
 
Freshman Terrin Vavra drove in the last two runs of the game with a triple in the eighth inning, and the Gophers ended an overcast day with a home victory.
 
 
“That’s what we work all year for. It’s fun,” Athmann said. “The weather may not be what it ideally could be, but everyone’s ready to go.”