Small ball helps manufacture win

Jake Bergren replaced the injured Andy Henkemeyer in the leadoff spot and scored the go-ahead run.

Minnesota forward Michëlla Riché (15) tries to pass Northwestern forward Dannielle Diamant on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Michëlla Riché (15) tries to pass Northwestern forward Dannielle Diamant on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Samuel Gordon

A two-out single. A stolen base. A chopper up the middle.

The Gophers played small ball at its finest Wednesday night, defeating Division III foe Hamline 3-1 despite only five hits.

Minnesota (7-5) used a collection of six pitchers to hold the Pipers to one run on four hits.

Minnesota’s designated hitter JT Canakes was 1-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and an RBI. Catcher Kurt Schlangen went 1-for-4 and drove in the go-ahead run. First baseman Mark Tatera’s late sacrifice fly provided some insurance.

Hamline’s pitchers threw mostly off-speed pitches that forced Gophers hitters to adjust — something head coach John Anderson didn’t think his team did very well.

“We had a few guys [adjust]. Not enough,” he said. “We still need to see more live pitching.”

However, Anderson said Minnesota’s pitching was phenomenal.

Gophers pitchers didn’t walk a batter, and they struck out 11 Pipers hitters.

Alex Tukey made his first appearance of the season in relief, threw 1.2 innings and picked up the victory.

Tukey took over for starter Kyle O’Shea with Minnesota trailing 1-0 in the fourth inning.

The Gophers tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. Shortstop Michael Handel walked, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Canakes’ left-field fly ball.

It looked like the 1-1 score would hold through the fifth inning, but with two outs, Gophers center fielder Jake Bergren ripped a single up the middle to keep the inning alive.

Bergren stole second base and then scored on Schlangen’s single up the middle.

Bergren, who batted leadoff in place of the injured Andy Henkemeyer, said he felt comfortable at the top of the order.

“The first couple at-bats, I needed to settle down,” he said. “I was glad to see a lot of pitches out there. That’s the job of the leadoff guy.”

Bergren said he’s improved as a base-stealer and is less hesitant on the base paths.

Anderson said the Gophers have focused more on base-stealing this season because their lineup isn’t loaded with power bats.

Minnesota manufactured another run in the seventh inning. Left fielder Troy Larson singled, advanced on an error and scored on Tatera’s sacrifice fly.

Relievers Kevin Kray and Billy Soule pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings. Soule picked up his fourth save of the season.

Schlangen said Anderson spoke with the team during the week about two-out hitting and hitting with runners in scoring position — two things the Gophers have struggled with this season.

“Once those come back to a regular average, then we’ll scratch across more runs,” he said. “Today wasn’t pretty.”