Minnesota baseball wins Big Ten tournament

After clinching the Big Ten regular-season title last week, the Minnesota baseball team won its ninth Big Ten tournament with a 15-5 win over Iowa Saturday night.

John Hageman

It was just a week ago that the Gophers baseball team dog-piled in the infield of Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, to celebrate being the Big Ten regular season champions. On the same field, the Gophers got to do it all over again Saturday night. The Gophers won their ninth Big Ten tournament with a 15-5 win over Iowa and an automatic bid into the NCAA regional qualifiers, for which they would not have otherwise received an at-large bid. They will head to Fullerton, Calif., for the regional and play top-seeded Cal State Fullerton in the first round Friday at 10 p.m. “For us, it’s been an interesting journey,” Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. “To finish it off here in Columbus … I’m not sure that’s something we were thinking about [in] March.” The Gophers led 4-0 going into the seventh inning Saturday, and sophomore AJ PettersonâÄôs bases-clearing double gave Minnesota a little breathing room. The Gophers would add one more run to make it 8-0. The floodgates continued to break open in the eighth when the Gophers added seven runs to make it 15-1 and cruised for the last inning and a half. Junior Phil Isaksson was lights-out for the Gophers, going 7 1/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits along with five strikeouts. Isaksson gave up six runs in three innings last Saturday on the same mound against Ohio State. “It was a lot better than last Saturday,” Isaksson said. “I just wanted to come out and attack the strike zone and let the defense make the plays.” Iowa overcame a seven-run deficit to defeat Michigan 11-8 earlier in the day for the right to play Minnesota in the latter half of the double-header. Had Iowa beat the Gophers âÄî who didn’t lose in the tournament âÄî the two teams would’ve played a winner-take-all championship game Sunday. Senior Kyle Knudson was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, going 6-for-17 in the tournament, including the game-winning single Friday night. The Gophers came into the tournament having won eight of their last 10 games and stayed hot in the first round Thursday, opening up an 8-0 lead against Indiana and holding them off for a 10-8 win. Junior Seth Rosin picked up the win, giving up seven runs and 10 hits in 7 2/3 innings of work. After letting the Hoosiers back in the game with a five-run third inning to make it 8-5, Rosin settled down and left the Gophers with a 10-7 lead going into the final inning. Indiana added a run in the ninth and threatened to make it interesting with runners on second and third, but junior Scott Matyas struck out IndianaâÄôs Ethan Wilson to end the game. The Gophers would need some late-inning magic of their own the next day against second-seeded Michigan. Trailing 3-0 going into the bottom of the seventh against the Wolverines, the Gophers fought their way back with one run in the seventh and two in the eighth to tie the game. The two squads fought off a number of close calls in extra innings, but Knudson’s RBI single in the bottom of the 11th gave the Gophers the win and the right to play for the championship the next day. Throughout the tournament, the Gophers pitching staff kept the games within reach. After jumping out to a big lead against Indiana, Rosin and Matyas fended off the Hoosier bats to squeeze out the victory. Against Michigan, freshman TJ Oakes gave up two earned runs on eight hits to keep the game close enough for the Gophers to come back and win. “I thought coming into the tournament, we had the best pitching staff,” Anderson said. “And I think again this weekend our pitching was outstanding [and] I think it was the reason we won the championship.”