Gophers come one game short of advancing out of regionals

The Gophers needed just one win in two tries against Cal State Fullerton to move on to the NCAA super regionals against UCLA, but fell two nights in a row to the Titans as their season came to an abrupt end.

by John Hageman

Coming into the NCAA regional tournament, the Minnesota baseball team did not have much to prove. Many thought they wouldnâÄôt get past the powerhouse that is Cal State Fullerton. But that didnâÄôt seem to faze the Gophers, and they nearly made history. The Gophers (32-30) were the only No. 4 seed in any of the 16 regions to win two games of the double-elimination tournament and needed just one win in two tries against Cal State Fullerton to move on to the NCAA super regionals against UCLA. But Minnesota fell two nights in a row to the Titans (45-16) to have their season come to an abrupt end. Had the Gophers advanced, they would have become the third No. 4 seed in history to advance to the super regionals. Minnesota upset the hosting Titans 3-1 in the first game of the regional tournament Friday night, which sent the Titans to the loserâÄôs bracket of the double-elimination tournament and forced them to win four straight games in order to move on. Minnesota scored all three of its runs in the first inning and held on by the strength of junior pitcher Seth RosinâÄôs start, giving up just one run on three hits in eight innings. After sophomore AJ Petterson was hit by a pitch in the first at-bat of the game, the Gophers pulled off a hit and run that put Petterson at third base with no outs. Senior Kyle Knudson drove in the first run of the game with a line drive to left field. After sophomore Matt PuhlâÄôs base-hit to bring in another run, sophomore first baseman Nick Ramirez committed a two-out error to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead by the end of the inning. âÄúWe were fortunate that we had the big first inning,âÄù Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. âÄúI think that gave us a little momentum âĦ and a little confidence as the game went along.âÄù Although Cal State Fullerton possessed the nationâÄôs eighth-best batting average of .348, they couldnâÄôt get past Rosin, who was named to the All-Tournament team. Rosin was also drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round of the MLB amateur draft Tuesday afternoon. âÄúI thought I did a pretty good job of throwing on both corners of the plate and keeping them off balance a lot of the time,âÄù Rosin said. Minnesota closer junior Scott Matyas pitched a perfect ninth inning to give the Gophers the 3-1 win. The Gophers trailed New Mexico 3-0 after four innings Saturday night until Knudson launched a solo shot to left field to put the score at 3-1. GeasonâÄôs sacrifice fly to center field would send sophomore Nick OâÄôShea home and the score at 3-2 in favor of New Mexico. The Gophers eventually tied up the game after a balk by the LobosâÄô junior Richard Olson in the top of the eighth to put the score at 4-4. After a quick ninth inning, the Gophers strung together four hits in a row to take the lead 6-4 into the bottom of the 10th inning. Matyas finished the game with eight consecutive strikeouts to end the game and send the Gophers to a rematch against Cal State Fullerton on Sunday. After being upset by the Gophers Friday night, the Titans came back with a vengeance Sunday, jumping out to a 7-0 lead and winning 7-2. The Minnesota loss set up a winner-take-all scenario Monday night with the winner advancing to the NCAA super regionals, but the Gophers came up short again. After the two teams traded runs in the first inning Monday night, Minnesota took its first lead of the game with sophomore Kyle GeasonâÄôs solo home run to left field. Minnesota led 4-2 going into the fourth inning, but the pitching staff could not hold back the Titans. With two outs in the top of the fifth and the game tied at four apiece, Minnesota junior pitcher Luke Rasmussen hit TitansâÄô sophomore outfielder Tyler Pill. Ramirez made the Gophers pay with a two-run home run in the next at-bat to take a 6-4 lead. The Gophers pitching staff hit five batters Monday. The Titans would go on to win 9-5 behind solid pitching by junior Raymond Hernandez, who gave up one earned run and two hits in three innings en route to a win. Although the season ended in disappointment for the Gophers, junior right fielder Mike Kvasnicka said the team was able to improve throughout the season âÄî from a 9-17 start to winning the Big Ten Tournament and coming up just short of making it out of the NCAA regionals âÄî an accomplishment they owe to the coaching staff. âÄúItâÄôs been a great year, and I think itâÄôs been one of the most rewarding of [AndersonâÄôs] career, and he told us that,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúThe way that we started, and the way we dealt with that really came from his and our teamâÄôs philosophy of getting just a little better every day.âÄù