Minnesota comes up short on West Coast

Despite knocking off the region’s No. 1 seed, San Diego, Minnesota couldn’t find an answer for either Cal State-Fullerton or Fresno State.

Tyler Rushmeyer

The Minnesota baseball team saw one of its most successful seasons in the past decade come to a close Sunday in San Diego.

Playing in their first NCAA regional since 2004, the Gophers (41-18) concluded their West Coast trip and postseason with an 11-6 defeat at the hands of Fresno State (38-28).

The Bulldogs, the region’s No. 4 seed, jumped out to a 10-0 lead by the fourth inning of the elimination game. It proved to be a hole too deep to climb out of for Minnesota, who countered with two big innings, but could not overcome the hot bats of Fresno State.

The loss, coupled with Friday’s tournament-opening 7-1 loss against Cal-State Fullerton, who went on to take the regional crown, ended the Gophers’ NCAA trip.

Senior outfielder Kyle Baran, who finished his career at Minnesota with a .300-plus batting average for a second consecutive season, said the NCAA tournament was a once in a lifetime experience.

“I thought we fought hard against some of the best,” he said. “We didn’t move on, but it’s just a pleasure to be part of such a memorable trip.”

Despite the loss, the Gophers left their mark on the Minnesota baseball history books; their 41 wins were the most by the program since 1999, and their regional win Saturday was the first by the Gophers since 2003.

Dan Lyons, who garnered All-Tournament honors, said the team accomplished a lot in his final season.

“I think Minnesota should be mentioned among the top teams for what we did this season,” he said. “We hit some rough patches, but this team always bounced back.”

The regional win came in a dramatic fashion for Minnesota as it knocked off the regional’s No. 1 seed, fourth-ranked San Diego (43-18), 6-5 in 10 innings.

After building a sizeable 5-0 lead heading into the top of the ninth, San Diego proved why it’s a national power by putting

together a five-run rally.

Minnesota recovered and took the contest thanks to the efforts of freshman second baseman Derek McCallum, who delivered the game-winning hit to keep the Gophers’ postseason hopes alive.

Lyons said putting away a team like San Diego was tough.

“There were a lot of emotions going after the ninth inning. But we calmed down a bit and regrouped,” he said. “We played relaxed in the 10th inning, when a lot of teams might panic.”

Baran said the senior leadership of this year’s team helped the Gophers fight through tough situations like Saturday’s contest.

“It was obviously tough,” he said. “But we found a way and sent San Diego home. It was pretty special.”

Sophomore Matt Nohelty, who finished second on the team with a .367 average on the season, said the Gophers set a valuable precedent this season for future teams.

“We had a never say die attitude all season, and we showed that Minnesota can play with anyone,” he said. “It taught us to never feel overmatched.”

Despite coming up short of a spot in an NCAA Super-Regional next weekend, the Gophers showed the crowds in San Diego certain will and determination evident all season long.

“This team has made a concerted effort to play all nine innings of every game,” coach John Anderson told Gophersports.com after the Fresno State contest. “I think this game was an extension of the way they have played all year in terms of never giving up.”