Huge eighth inning keys Gophers past Bison

Minnesota took advantage of NDSU errors and its offense exploded in the eighth inning.

Samuel Gordon

Things looked bleak for the Minnesota baseball team Wednesday against North Dakota State.

The Gophers played sloppy, executed poorly and struggled in the clutch all game long. As a result, they trailed 6-3 going into the eighth inning.

Then the unthinkable happened: A pair of catcher’s interference calls helped spark a seven-run rally and a monster 11-7 comeback victory in front of an NDSU-record 1,791 fans.

Minnesota designated hitter JT Canakes hit 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs. Catcher Matt Halloran was 2-for-6, and Dan Olinger drove in the go-ahead run. The win is only Minnesota’s second on the road this season.

“We always do really well at home,” Canakes said. “To get a win here, it’s a boost.”

The Bison (29-10) roughed up Gophers starter Jordan Jess for five runs in 2.2 innings. A pair of Minnesota errors in the third inning opened the door for four runs, and NDSU nabbed a 5-2 lead.

Winds in Fargo were gusting up to 30 miles an hour, and Minnesota head coach John Anderson said he thought the conditions had an effect on his team’s defensive play.

Each team scored a run during the game’s middle innings, and with a 6-3 lead, the Bison brought on top-reliever Simon Anderson to close the deal.

No cigar.

Canakes led off the frame with a single and Kyle Geason reached on the first catcher’s interference. Matt Puhl bunted both runners into scoring position, and David Bettenburg made it a 6-4 game with an RBI single.

Next, Andy Henkemeyer hit a ground ball through the infield, but a second catcher’s interference was ruled, and the Gophers capitalized on the mistake.

Anderson said he had never seen catcher’s interference called that many times in one game.

“The catcher was sitting up pretty close the whole game,” Anderson said. “That had an effect on the big inning we had.”

Minnesota (24-19) pried the floodgates open for six more runs to shock NDSU fans and take a 10-6 lead. Reliever Drew Ghelfi subdued the Bison offense, and Minnesota held on for the win.

The Gophers will welcome Iowa to Minneapolis for a three-game set this weekend. The Hawkeyes lost two of three to Penn State in their last Big Ten series.

Minnesota and Michigan State are both 7-5 and in a tie for second place in the Big Ten. Iowa is in a tie for eighth with a 5-7 mark.