Hrncirik leads Gophers to Sunday victory

Minnesota went 2-1 versus butler

Matt Perkins

Going into Sunday’s final game of a three-game series against Butler, Minnesota’s baseball team was concerned about inconsistent production in the batter’s box.

Coach John Anderson said he was looking for someone to step up and lead the team.

He found that leader in senior leadoff hitter David Hrncirik.

After winning the series opener 7-0 on Friday thanks to Matt Loberg’s eight shutout innings, the Gophers lost 2-1 on Saturday, and their offensive struggles seemed to have resurfaced.

The Gophers responded Sunday with a 9-4 win, led in large part by Hrncirik, who was 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI in the rubber match and 6-for-10 with four runs scored, an RBI and three stolen bases in the series.

“We had a chance in the first few innings to at least have one big inning and score some runs,” Anderson said after the loss. “We’re still struggling with guys in scoring position and putting together good at-bats. We’re breaking down in those situations.”

Trailing 3-0 going into the bottom of the third inning, Hrncirik started a two-out rally with a single up the middle, followed by the same from Matt Fornasiere.

Things really turned around for the Gophers when Mike Mee blasted a three-run home run into the upper deck in right field.

The Gophers never looked back after that, scoring six more runs in the next five innings, led by Hrncirik.

“I feel like I’m seeing the ball well,” Hrncirik said. “But most of all, I feel relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the better plate appearances you’re going to get.”

Since being moved to the leadoff spot, Hrncirik has excelled. He leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage and stolen bases and is second in runs scored.

The Gophers (6-11) took full advantage of Butler’s 6.40 team ERA, outscoring the Bulldogs 17-6 in the series while pounding out 27 hits.

“It kind of helps to know what’s coming,” Fornasiere said. “We might have had some pitches being called.”

Furthermore, Fornasiere said the team might, if talking to the Gophers, or might not, if Butler is listening in, have been picking up the signs at second base.

Regardless, Anderson said he was relieved the team was finally able to put together quality at-bats.

“I think we did a better job of executing our plans offensively – not swinging at the pitcher’s pitch and waiting for a mistake,” Anderson said Sunday. “That was the difference today.”