Baseball escapes Huskies’ eight-run eighth

by Aaron Blake

In the top of the eighth inning on Wednesday at Siebert Field, St. Cloud State’s Kevin McDonald hit a long fly ball off the top of the wall in left field. McDonald managed only a single out of the hit, slowly running to first base as his team trailed Minnesota 9-0.

McDonald’s extra-long single wasn’t a textbook example of hustle, but it was the beginning of a near-miss comeback. The Huskies stormed back to record an eight-run eighth, but the Gophers (22-20) held on for a 9-8 defeat the Huskies.

Sophomore pitcher Jeff Moen was charged with only three earned runs despite accounting for all eight St. Cloud State tallies. He recorded only two outs, threw two wild pitches, and was the victim of two fielding errors.

“I’m concerned about Jeff Moen,” coach John Anderson said. “He just really hasn’t pitched very well and I’m trying to figure out how I can help him.

“I was more concerned about him than worried about winning or losing the game.”

With two out and a runner on second, Gophers junior Nick McCauley was brought in to save a 9-0 game that quickly became a 9-7 nail-biter.

McCauley allowed only a single to St. Cloud State’s Dustin Fenwick, scoring Chris Kratochvil from second. After Mke Holman flew out to center to end the inning, McCauley gained the save by retiring the order in the ninth.

“I’m just thankful for every opportunity,” said McCauley. “It feels better if you can get in a close game and seal the win for the team. I felt confident and it feels great.”

McCauley wasn’t the only pitcher used to help salvage the game. Josh Krogman, Matt Loberg, and Tim Theis combined to hold the Huskies scoreless through seven innings, with Loberg pitching the bulk of them.

Loberg pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed only four hits for the win.

“I knew the win would be mine, but it’s a team game and I knew we’d come through in the end,” Loberg said. “If they would have tied it, we probably would have scored two or three runs in the ninth. That’s just how we’ve been playing.”

Luke Appert and David Roach each hit home runs for the Gophers to supply the needed offense. Scott Welch posted three RBI and Jason Kennedy batted in two more.

In the bottom of the first inning, a single and a double by Welch and Appert, respectively, put two runners in scoring position with one out. Kennedy scored them both with a single to left field.

Scott Howard then reached on an error by St. Cloud State (13-23) first baseman Mark Dingmann. Kennedy advanced to third on the dropped ball and scored as he and Howard engineered a double-steal.

Roach led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a first-pitch home run to right field. After a hit batter and a pair of singles, Welch drove in all three runners with a triple over the center fielder’s head.

Appert would also clear the base paths with his 10th home run of the season, scoring Welch from second.

All nine Gopher runs were scored in the first and sixth innings to suffice for the victory.

“(Tonight’s win) adds to the confidence I built last week and in the games before that,” Loberg said. “I’m starting on Monday versus Purdue and I’ve got a lot of confidence right now.”

Minnesota will need Loberg’s confidence in the Purdue (21-21, 11-9) series May 4-6. The Gophers are currently second in the Big Ten to Ohio State with 12 conference games remaining.