Gophers begin homestand with big hits

Freshman Toby Hanson hits the ball on Tuesday afternoon at Siebert Field.

James Healy

Freshman Toby Hanson hits the ball on Tuesday afternoon at Siebert Field.

Ben Gotz

The Gophers came up to bat in the third inning down one run, needing somebody to respond.
 
As it turns out, almost the entire team did. 
 
The Gophers rattled off seven consecutive hits in a six-run inning and never looked back in a 13-5 victory over North Dakota State.
 
“I thought we had, offensively, one of our better days, just in terms of our approaches at home plate and the way we controlled the batter’s box,” head coach John Anderson said. “I was impressed.”
 
The Gophers (13-19, 3-9 Big Ten) and Bison played a fast first two innings at Siebert Field on Tuesday afternoon, with neither team allowing a hit.
 
But in the top of the third inning, freshman starting pitcher Reggie Meyer allowed three singles, which gave the Bison a 1-0 lead.
 
Redshirt senior catcher Matt Halloran came to the plate first in the bottom of the third but quickly returned to the dugout after failing to get a hit. 
 
After that, the Gophers couldn’t miss the ball.
 
Outfielder Jordan Smith started the hitting barrage with a single, and then a rally featuring four more singles and two doubles followed. Every Minnesota batter had a turn at the plate before sophomore Austin Athmann ended the inning with a double play.
 
“[Hitting’s] definitely contagious,” second baseman Connor Schaefbauer said. “Jordan got us going, but it’s just one of those things where you have to go up there with your approach and look for your pitch, and we had several guys in a row do that.”
 
Meyer got the ball back for one more inning, finishing his outing by getting an NDSU batter to ground into a double play. The rookie ended his afternoon with one earned run in four innings, his longest outing of the season.
 
“[I’m] slowly starting to gain a little more confidence,” Meyer said.
 
Meyer hit one of the first batters he faced with a pitch, but he made adjustments during the game with interim pitching coach Scott Matyas and only needed 41 pitches to get through four innings.
 
“I wasn’t able to locate my off-speed pitches, and then I figured it out and started throwing them for strikes,” Meyer said. “I was kind of slowing down my arm a little bit on them, so I fixed that and made an adjustment.”
 
Halloran added to the Gophers’ lead when he came back to the plate, driving a ball out of the park for his second home run of the season.
 
The Bison answered back with long balls of their own, hitting three-run and solo home runs in the top of the fifth to cut their deficit to 7-5.
 
That was as close as the Bison got, as the Gophers added on runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings to pull away.
 
Four singles and three walks led to another big Minnesota rally in the seventh, as the team added five runs to its lead to go up 13-5 and secure their first win in a 13-game home stand.
 
“It’s what we needed,” Anderson said. “We needed a home stretch to see if we can get better as a baseball team.”