Minnesota opens Metrodome Tournament with big win

Minnesota baseball head coach John Anderson wasnâÄôt too pleased with his teamâÄôs performance at the plate Friday night. âÄúI thought we struck out too much tonight and chased some pitches out of the strike zone,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôve got work to do there and weâÄôll try to get it corrected.âÄù So it may come as a surprise to learn that the Gophers won 16-3 in convincing fashion over Illinois State in the first of three games in the Metrodome Classic. That surprise fades, however, with a look at the box score. The Redbirds committed six errors that led to eight unearned runs for Minnesota, while Illinois StateâÄôs pitchers combined for nine walks. And the trouble started immediately. The RedbirdsâÄô Ryan Camp had a rough start to his day on the mound. He got no help from his defense, which committed an error in each of the first two innings, and those errors coupled with a trio of wild pitches staked the Gophers three quick unearned runs. In the first, Camp seemed more concerned with Minnesota’s base runners than its hitters. After center fielder Eric Decker flashed his speed by chasing down a deep fly ball in the top of the inning and stealing second in the bottom, Camp spent more time looking Decker off at second than focusing on home plate. It led to a wild pitch and Decker scampering to third; he’d score on a Derek McCallum single. But Camp’s paranoia about the Gophers’ base running was warranted. On third after another wild pitch, sophomore left fielder Michael Kvasnicka crept halfway down the line after a pitch, then broke for home as Redbirds catcher Matt Mirabal lobbed the ball back to Camp. The play at the plate wasn’t even close. Camp settled down, but Illinois State’s porous defense continued. With the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, McCallum hit a sharp ground ball directly at Redbirds’ first baseman Evan Kohli, but it squirted through his legs, clearing the bases. In the fifth and errant pick-off throw from Mirabal to Kohli brought around Knudson. An 8-0 lead with only one earned run. âÄúThey helped us out tonight, no question about it,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúYouâÄôve got to be able to play defense, when you donâÄôt you bring a lot of extra people to the plate.âÄù And Minnesota certainly played defense. The infield was a vacuum for any ball hit on the ground, while Decker seemed to track down anything Illinois State connected with. Combined with a solid performance from right-hander Chauncy Handran, his second in as many starts, the Gophers remained untouched on the scoreboard through five. Handran needed only 75 pitches to get through seven innings; he allowed two runs on two hits and struck out four in the longest outing of his career. âÄúChauncy has great pace on the mound,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúI think itâÄôs easy to play defense for him because he throws the ball in the strike zone, he works quickly. I think that is a factor in defense. Kids get on and off the field quickly and they have some energy for offense.âÄù That energy was evident in the sixth inning. After the Redbirds got on the board in with two runs in the top half, Minnesota answered by bringing four runners across the plate in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by redshirt freshman Nick O’Shea’s bases-clearing, three RBI double. OâÄôShea, who entered the game with a .171 average and on a prolonged slump, broke out a bit with a 2-for-5 performance. âÄúNot a lot of things have been going right for me so IâÄôm just trying to take a simple approach,âÄù OâÄôShea said. âÄúJust see the ball hit the ball. That first hit wasnâÄôt the best but IâÄôll take it, IâÄôll take anything right now. It just felt good to get a couple hits out there.âÄù