Gophers squeak past Division II foe

Minnesota beat South Dakota State on a Matt Fornasiere 10th-inning RBI double.

Aaron Blake

A combination of South Dakota State baseball pitchers surprisingly shut down Minnesota hitters for seven straight innings Wednesday, but the end of the game belonged to the Gophers, thanks to some clutch hitting in the bottoms of the ninth and 10th innings.

After trailing 2-1 late in the game, Minnesota (16-12, 5-3 Big Ten) pieced together some at-bats and came out with a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Division II Jackrabbits (7-27).

Gophers shortstop Matt Fornasiere won the game with a shot to the right-center field gap on a full count with no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning. The double scored second baseman Luke MacLean from first base.

Fornasiere was 0-for-1 in the game with three walks before finally finding his pitch. The game-winning swing did more than just win the game, though – it extended his hitting streak to 15 games.

“He threw me a high fastball earlier in the count, and I fouled it off,” Fornasiere said. “They kept throwing the high strike, and I laid off three other ones and got to (a) full (count). He threw one close enough, and I was able to get my hands high enough to drive it in the gap this time.”

Minnesota brought the game into extra innings thanks to a botched fly ball off third baseman Jared Sanders’ bat and a Tony Leseman RBI single two batters later in the bottom of the ninth.

Leseman was 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI at the No. 8 spot in the lineup. MacLean was the only other Minnesota batter with more than one hit, going 2-for-4 with a walk and the run scored.

The Gophers’ only other offense came in the first inning, when Fornasiere and center fielder Sam Steidl executed a double steal with one out. Fornasiere stole second, while Steidl sprinted home on the throw.

In the seven innings between the first and ninth, Minnesota managed six hits but no serious scoring threats.

“I think we were just trying to do too much with a lot of pitches,” Steidl said. “They weren’t overpowering us – that’s for sure. There were a lot of pitches that they left up, and we just weren’t hitting them.”

The Gophers’ pitchers were step-for-step with the Jackrabbits throughout the game.

Luke Beresford was the starter in just his second game this season. He took the loss March 3 against Minnesota State-Mankato, but pitched two innings and only allowed one hit Wednesday.

Freshman Cole DeVries pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed one earned run. John Gaub pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, and Andy Peters pitched one inning. He allowed the Jackrabbits’ second run.

Jeff Moen pitched the top of the ninth and 10th innings and rolled through both, earning the win once Fornasiere came through in the bottom of the 10th.

“Our pitching staff didn’t walk anybody and threw it over the plate,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “I saw some good things out of our younger pitchers.”

South Dakota State pitcher Ryan Greene took the loss after allowing Fornasiere’s game-winning hit. Jackrabbits second baseman Tony Lane led the team in the batter’s box, going 2-for-3 with both of his team’s runs scored.

Overall, despite the need for late-inning heroics against a less talented team, Anderson said, he saw a good baseball game with two teams that were ready to go.

He emphasized that baseball is a very even game, where any team can win on any given day. The Jackrabbits happened to be on their game, he said.

“I thought we played very well,” Anderson said. “I have no complaints about the way we played today.”