Minnesota’s ninth-inning meltdown leads to tough 13-11 loss

by Brian Deutsch

A season-high 21 hits wasn’t enough for the Minnesota baseball team as the Gophers dropped a 13-11 afternoon contest to Northern Iowa yesterday.

“You don’t lose too many of those, but that’s baseball,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “Every time you go to the park you learn something, see something different.”

Sophomore pitcher Scott Fern’s debut start for the Gophers got off to a rocky beginning as he gave up three runs during the game’s first two innings.

But Fern showed promise in the third – his final inning of work – by sitting the Panthers batters down in order and striking out two of that inning’s three at-bats.

But the fourth inning was ugly for Fern’s relief, junior Tyler Oakes.

In just two-third innings of work, Oakes gave up six runs on three hits including a triple by junior infielder Brandon Douglas that cleared the loaded bases.

The Panthers would score 13 runs on only 12 hits all night.

Scoring runs without the trouble of having to put the ball in play should have made Northern Iowa’s job easy, but Minnesota’s offense picked up the slack for the pitching staff.

Down 9-2 after the slide in the top of the fourth, the Gophers offense nearly matched their opponents’ output by crossing the plate five times themselves in the inning.

“We just didn’t let the score bother us, we just kept putting good at-bats together,” senior second baseman Jeremy Chlan said. “When you do that, you start scoring runs like today and start getting hits that fall for us.”

The offense poked in another three runs over the next four innings to overtake the Panthers 10-9 with the ninth ahead and be on the verge of ending Minnesota’s five-game losing streak.

And the offense was fairly spread out yesterday as five of the nine batters collected three hits.

Eight hitter Jon Hummel and and nine hitter Chlan, both went 3-for-5 while Hummel was responsible for four of the team’s runs.

“It was good to see (Hummel) have some better at-bats today. He looked better, he looked more like himself,” Anderson said.

“Those are the guys we need to focus on, we need to get some offense out of the bottom of our lineup, and if we can do that I think it will help us.”

But things fell apart in the ninth inning.

After inheriting a runner, sophomore pitcher Scott Matyas struck out the first Panthers batter he faced before giving the next two batters free passes to first base.

The bleeding didn’t stop there, as a wild pitch tied the game and then three infield grounders were misplayed to give Northern Iowa a three-run lead that it would not relinquish in the bottom of the inning.

“Today we just didn’t have it,” senior catcher Jeff DeSmidt said. “Some days that’s just the way it goes, you get a couple bounces. (Today) they did.”