Handel’s home run lifts Gophers over NDSU

Michael Handel atoned for an early error with a go-ahead home run.

Samuel Gordon

At 6 foot 1 and 185 pounds, Michael Handel doesn’t fit the mold of a prototypical cleanup hitter.

Looks can be deceiving.

The Gophers sophomore shortstop went 2-for-4 with a solo home run and a pair of RBIs, powering Minnesota to a 4-2 victory over North Dakota State on Wednesday at the Metrodome.

The cleanup spot is typically reserved for the best power hitter on the team. Handel has been that through six games.

He’s hitting .433, top among everyday Gophers players. His eight RBIs are second-most on the team, and his home run is the first by a Minnesota player this season.

“It’s definitely something new to me. I don’t think I’ve ever hit cleanup before,” Handel said. “Batting fourth, it’s a compliment, but at the same time I need to keep focused.”

Handel mishandled a ground ball in the first inning, and his error led to a pair of Bison runs.

NDSU starter Parker Trewin protected the 2-0 lead and kept Gophers hitters in check until the fifth inning.

Designated hitter Alex LaShomb led off the fifth with a single. Two batters later, third baseman Ryan Abrahamson singled. Then second baseman Tony Skjefte ripped Trewin’s offering up the middle, driving in Minnesota’s first run.

Left fielder Andy Henkemeyer evened the score at 2-2 with an RBI double.

Simon Anderson replaced Trewin in the sixth inning, and Handel sent his 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats.

“I saw three sliders back-to-back,” Handel said. “Finally I just connected on one.”

The Gophers tacked on an insurance run in the form of a Handel RBI double.

“He didn’t let the [error] ruin his day,” head coach John Anderson said of Handel. “With young players, that can happen. That was impressive to me that he was able to reset.”

Senior closer Billy Soule took the mound in the ninth and slammed the door on NDSU for his second save of the season.

Junior Kyle O’Shea started on the mound for the Gophers and threw three innings, allowing only the pair of unearned runs.

The Gophers’ trio of Dalton Sawyer, Drew Ghelfi and Ty McDevitt held Bison batters in check during the game’s middle innings. Ghelfi was credited with the win.

“We found a way to win the game after getting behind,” John Anderson said. “Last year, I’m not sure we could have found a way to win that game.”