Gophers drop 4-3 decision to Northern Iowa

Head coach John Anderson regularly repeats the same mantra: if you score five or more runs, youâÄôre in a good position to win baseball games. Five runs would have been enough for the Gophers Wednesday night at the Metrodome, but instead, Northern IowaâÄôs pitching staff proved too much to handle and Minnesota fell 4-3 to the visiting Panthers. âÄúWe just didnâÄôt come up with enough timely hits or hits in general to put runs on the board,âÄù junior second baseman Derek McCallum said. The GophersâÄô offensive production came almost entirely from two men. At clean-up, sophomore Michael Kvasnicka, who has been red-hot at the plate as of late, was 2-for-4 with an RBI triple, MinnesotaâÄôs first of the season, a double and a run scored. In the third spot, McCallum hit his second homerun of the season, a solo shot, in a 2-for-4 effort of his own. Meanwhile the bottom of the order struggled all night; without junior center fielder Eric Decker, who holds the top batting average on the team and moved from the seven to five spot, MinnesotaâÄôs six through nine hitters failed to record a single hit. âÄúTo get to five or more runs on a consistent basis, youâÄôve got to get offense from six, seven, eight, nine too,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúWe didnâÄôt get any offense from the bottom of the lineup and itâÄôs hard to get to five runs unless you can get the guys in the top [of the order] up with multiple guys on base. We never really had multiple base runners tonight.âÄù But ultimately, the Gophers couldnâÄôt string together enough quality at-bats. Starter Allen Bechstein, a junior right-hander, was limited to 55 pitches in his first start of the season. He displayed some control issues, especially in the first inning, walking three batters and throwing a wild pitch to put the PanthersâÄô Grant Grgurich on third and in a position to score on a ground out. Though he allowed just one hit in his 2 2/3 innings of work, BechsteinâÄôs erratic display led to two earned runs. The Gophers cycled through pitchers quickly all night. Five men took the mound and BechsteinâÄôs appearance was the longest. But MinnesotaâÄôs outings were long compared to the way Northern Iowa rifled through pitchers. Five of the PanthersâÄô seven pitchers threw only an inning, and the short appearances seemed to keep the Gophers guessing all night. âÄúItâÄôs tough when they throw that many pitchers,âÄù McCallum said. âÄúYou never get to see a guy more than once.âÄù To make things more difficult, they threw nothing but strikes âÄî Minnesota walked only once. Combine that with nearly flawless defense and itâÄôs no surprise the Gophers failed to score those magical five runs. âÄúGetting guys on and trying to have good at-bats with guys on, especially in scoring position, is what we focus on and what we had been doing pretty well, actually,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúJust not tonight.âÄù