Deep pitching staff one-hits visiting St. Thomas

Aaron Blake

When your pitchers are being used to pinch hit and your third basemen are being used as closers, you know there must be some room for error.

Minnesota’s pitching staff went 0-for-1 at the plate Tuesday against St. Thomas, with Nick McCauley striking out on a pitch well outside of the strike zone. The hurlers more than made up for it, though, by pitching a one-hit shutout and sitting down the last 20 batters they faced consecutively.

Regular third baseman David Hrncirik finished the job for the Gophers, pitching a one-two-three top of the ninth to give Minnesota a 6-0 win over the Tommies.

“I get really excited when I get the chance to pitch,” Hrncirik said. “Everyone in front of me pitched great. (Craig) Molldrem threw three great innings. From then on, all the relievers came in ready to pitch and took care of business.”

The only hit St. Thomas could manage against the Gophers came off Molldrem to start the game. Jordan Roering’s base knock and an error by second baseman Luke Appert in the third inning would account for the Tommies’ only two baserunners.

Tim Theis followed Molldrem with a pair of perfect innings for his first win of the season. Dan Anderson threw two more perfect frames, and Andy Peters pitched a flawless eighth before Hrncirik was called on to pitch the ninth. The five Gopher pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts without walking a batter.

“This game shows how deep our pitching staff is,” Theis said. “A lot of guys who pitched tonight haven’t pitched in awhile, but they still came in and did the job.”

Minnesota summoned the offense necessary for the victory in the fourth and fifth innings.

After Tommies’ starter Ryan Naughton rolled through his first three innings, the Gophers’ bats began to chip away and broke the game open.

Shortstop Matt Fornasiere started the inning with a single to right field. Appert moved Fornasiere to third with a first-pitch double down the right-field line. Both would score on a base-clearing shot to the left field gap by designated hitter Scott Welch.

After catcher Andy Hunter moved Welch to third base on a groundout to the pitcher, first baseman David Roach’s single to right sent him home and made the score 3-0 after four innings.

Welch led the Gophers with three RBIs. Both Fornasiere and Appert scored a pair of runs for Minnesota.

“Working in a bunch of guys on the mound was important for us tonight,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “Come tournament time, you need all the pitching you can get.”