Gophers drop game to Milwaukee after ugly first inning

Freshman pitcher J.P. Massey was pulled in the first inning after letting up five runs and two home runs.

Ryan Duffy pitches the ball to Illinois on Sunday, April 14 at Siebert Field. The Gophers lost 3-13 to Illinois.

Jasmin Kemp

Ryan Duffy pitches the ball to Illinois on Sunday, April 14 at Siebert Field. The Gophers lost 3-13 to Illinois.

Jack Warrick

The Gophers gave up two home runs in the first inning to let Milwaukee hold on for a victory.

Minnesota freshman pitcher J.P. Massey let up those two shots, giving Milwaukee (26-15) five runs in the top of the first inning, which would be enough take the victory 5-4 at Siebert Field Wednesday night.

“We had a lot of chances,” said head coach John Anderson, pointing out the 11 Minnesota base runners left on base. “We just weren’t able to get one more hit or have one more good at bat. … That’s been our M.O. all year long.”

In the top of the first inning, Massey let up a three-run home run and a two-run home run before he was pulled for senior pitcher Nick Lackney, who ended the first inning. Massey had 14 innings pitched and a 5.14 ERA coming into Wednesday’s game.

“Every freshman is going to have a struggle like that,” said Minnesota outfielder Ben Mezzenga. “They were able to put some good swings on some good pitches. I don’t think he necessarily pitched bad. I think [the Panthers] made him pay for when he made a few mistakes.”

The Gophers (18-23) scratched back into the game in the bottom of the first and second innings, scoring four runs with RBIs from first baseman Cole McDevitt (2), designated hitter Eli Wilson and outfielder Easton Bertrand.

Milwaukee didn’t score after the first inning.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Minnesota shortstop Jordan Kozicky smashed a ball deep into left field. It soared through the air and banked off the top of the wall at a strange angle, giving the impression it may have hit the yellow part at the top that designates a homer run. But the officials called it in the park, and the two base runners didn’t tag up to possibly score a tying run. Panthers’ pitcher George Swedie got the next two Gophers batters out, ending the inning. Anderson went out to argue the call to no avail.

“We don’t really have anybody to run our offense through,” Anderson said. “We’ve tried different lineups, we’ve moved different guys around the lineup.”

Anderson said the problem might be batters trying to do too much.

“Maybe everybody’s trying to do the big thing rather than just put the ball in play,” Anderson said. “The first thing should be to put a ball in play, and hopefully something good will happen.”

Massey got the loss while only recording one out in the first inning. The five pitchers who came out of the bullpen didn’t let up a run after Massey. Milwaukee’s Patrick Tomfohrde took the win on the mound and Matt Vanek recorded the save.

The last time Minnesota played Milwaukee, Minnesota won 5-4 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Gophers will play Ohio State at Siebert Field in a three-game Big Ten series Friday, Saturday and Sunday.