Fiedler’s walk-off leads Gophers to win

Sophomore Toby Anderson delivers a pitch Wednesday afternoon at Siebert Field.

James Healy

Sophomore Toby Anderson delivers a pitch Wednesday afternoon at Siebert Field.

Ben Gotz

The Gophers only needed three swings to blow past South Dakota State on Wednesday.
 
The Jackrabbits outhit Minnesota 10-3 on a blustery day at Siebert Field. But with the wind going out, redshirt senior shortstop Michael Handel and freshman center fielder Alex Boxwell got two balls to carry deep for a 2-1 lead.
 
After South Dakota State fought back to tie the game in the ninth, Boxwell reached base on an error and sophomore Matt Fiedler drove him in for a walk-off 3-2 victory.
 
“It was special,” Fiedler said, estimating it was his first walk-off hit since he was 10 or 11 years old. “[They] kept us off balance all game, but we were able to scrape together the offense that we needed.”
 
Handel’s home run scored the first run of the game in the top of the second inning to give starting pitcher Toby Anderson an early 1-0 lead.
 
Anderson threw four scoreless innings to start the game and finished with four strikeouts.
 
“His fastball command was better, and he got some strikeouts with his slider,” head coach John Anderson said. “I think that was the difference for him. He did a better job there of commanding the fastball, and that’s where it starts.”
 
But in the fifth inning, South Dakota State broke through and tied the game. The Jackrabbits’ eighth hitter singled, and then their ninth hitter hit an RBI double to the gap in right-centerfield.
 
South Dakota State almost took the lead with a ball right down the third baseline two batters later, but it hooked foul. And before the Jackrabbits could put the ball in play again, the Gophers caught a base runner attempting to steal to end the inning.
 
The game remained tied until Boxwell came up to the plate with two outs in the sixth inning and hit a ball to almost the exact same spot Handel did.
 
“I knew I hit it pretty well,” Boxwell said. “[I] got a little help from the wind, I think.”
 
The Gophers relied on young talent to hold their lead after Boxwell’s blast, bringing freshmen pitchers Reggie Meyer and Lucas Gilbreath out of the bullpen after Toby Anderson pitched five innings.
 
The two rookies combined for three and 1/3 innings on the day, allowing just two hits and striking out four.
 
“Lucas Gilbreath had better stuff and threw it in the strike zone. Reggie Meyer, I thought [he] threw strikes today,” Anderson said. “It’s probably why we had a chance to win the game because we threw it over the plate.”
 
Gilbreath was lifted after getting the first out in the ninth inning, but redshirt junior Ty McDevitt was unable to close the door, hitting a batter and then allowing an RBI double to tie the game.
 
Boxwell was first up in the bottom of the ninth, and after reaching on an error, second baseman Connor Schaefbauer bunted him over to second before Fiedler brought him home to end the game.
 
“When he made contact with it, I knew it was up the middle and I was going to score,” Boxwell said.