Big bats lead to big win for Gophers

Iowa pitcher Tony Manville moved toward home plate; the ball did not. It slipped from his hand and landed somewhere between the mound and the third base dugout. Manville hung his head; the crowd shifted nervously, exchanging surprised glances and trying to stifle laughter. Everyone in the ballpark wondered the same thing: What was that? There were plenty of moments Saturday afternoon that prompted a collective shaking of heads at Siebert Field. ManvilleâÄôs inexplicable pitch was a microcosm of a day during which everything went wrong for the Hawkeyes. And when everything goes wrong for one team, it usually goes right for the other. That couldnâÄôt have been truer for Minnesota. The Gophers turned 21 hits, 13 walks and seven Iowa errors into a 26-9 thrashing of the Hawkeyes. The lopsidedness of the game is difficult to capture in words. Saying that Minnesota went through its order more than four times in the first 3 innings tells part of the story. Noting that the Gophers didnâÄôt even blink when reliever Allen Bechstein surrendered a grand slam in the top of the 7th tells another part (âÄúItâÄôs not very often that you sit here and not feel like youâÄôre in deep doo-doo,âÄù head coach John Anderson quipped after the game). And when fans began filing out after MinnesotaâÄôs 10-run third that extended the lead to 23-3, it was clear that this wasnâÄôt your average blowout. But none of that really captures the utterly demoralizing way by which the Gophers went about dismantling the Hawkeyes. Each time Iowa granted Minnesota a free base or an extra out, the Gophers capitalized. With seven errors and 13 walks, thatâÄôs plenty to capitalize on, and they did so emphatically. âÄúIf theyâÄôre going to give us those opportunities weâÄôre going to take them,âÄù freshman third baseman Kyle Geason, who belted his first career home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the 2nd, said. Fellow freshman Justin Gominsky launched a home run of his own, as did junior second baseman Derek McCallum and sophomore right fielder Michael Kvasnicka in back-to-back fashion. Geason had quite a day from the nine-spot, scattering three more hits in addition to his home run and scoring every time he reached base. He remained relatively subdued about the performance, however. âÄúVery goodâÄù was about all Geason had to say about how his first career trot felt. Of course, GeasonâÄôs performance was just one of a number of big days at the plate. Gominsky was 3-for-3 with five RBIs and Kvasnicka matched that RBI total in a 3-for-6 effort. Incredibly, all 10 of their combined RBIs came in the first 3 innings. Those first three innings essentially ended the game, but Minnesota was able to avoid completely coasting through the remaining six. As they had to eventually, the GophersâÄô bats cooled but starter Tom Buske was able to craft a respectable outing despite the gameâÄôs snail pace. He threw 5 innings of five-hit, three-run ball, struck out four and walked just one despite practically having to warm up again each time he returned to the mound. âÄúTo have your arm just be dormant for that long and to come out and throw to Division I hitters, its [difficult],âÄù Kvasnicka said about BuskeâÄôs long stints on the bench during MinnesotaâÄôs huge innings. âÄúBut he did a really good job as he always does, lived low and got ground balls âÄì heâÄôs just been a stud for us lately.âÄù More than likely, both teams are going to attempt to forget SaturdayâÄôs game before SundayâÄôs season finale, albeit for different reasons. Carrying the loss with them would be disastrous for the Hawkeyes, but getting too high off of such a big win could be equally problematic for the Gophers. Plus, as Anderson notes, âÄúThese are hard games to evaluate at the end because so much happened.âÄù But if Minnesota plays the same way Sunday, Anderson should be just fine with that.