Minnesota drops baseball series against Utah

Minnesota has just one series remaining in its long home stand.

Gophers Pitcher Trent Schoeberl scans the field at U.S. Bank Stadium on Tuesday, March 3.

Kamaan Richards

Gophers Pitcher Trent Schoeberl scans the field at U.S. Bank Stadium on Tuesday, March 3.

Nick Jungheim and Brendan O'Brien

The Gopher baseball team dropped a home series against Utah over the weekend, losing the final two games against the Utes after winning off a strong pitching performance Friday night.

Friday — Minnesota 6, Utah 4

Junior Max Meyer delivered another quality outing for the Gophers who fended off a late surge from Utah to earn a 6-4 victory in the series opener.

For the third-straight start, Meyer recorded over 10 strikeouts, but on this night, he retired a career-high 15 batters. From the first inning, it was clear that Meyer was in command, striking out the first three batters he faced. The junior retired Utah’s first nine batters in order.

Minnesota’s bats began to heat up in the third when sophomore Zack Raabe opened the scoring with an RBI single. The Gophers added another run in the fourth on a base hit from redshirt junior Drew Hmielewski and doubled their advantage to 4-0 the very next inning thanks to a two-run double from redshirt junior Jack Wassel.

In the eighth, Meyer found himself in a jam when Utah scored three runs on a two-out double from sophomore Jayden Kiernan. However, Meyer stranded Kiernen at second, striking out the final batter he faced to complete his eight-inning performance.

Redshirt senior Jordan Kozicky gave Minnesota two insurance runs with a two-out base hit in the eighth which became crucial when Utah junior Vinny Zavolta homered in the bottom of the ninth. Freshman Sam Ireland recovered to put out the next batter, ending the game and completing his first career save.

Saturday — Minnesota 3, Utah 6

A pitcher’s duel for most of the evening, Utah managed to score a pair of runs in the eighth and ninth innings while the Gophers’ comeback effort could not tie the game in the final frame.

Getting the start, sophomore J.P. Massey pitched four innings, giving up a pair of runs. Junior Bubba Horton came in from the bullpen to start the fifth with his team trailing 2-0, and did his best to keep Minnesota within striking distance. The lefty tossed 3.2 innings, striking out four batters and allowing no runs on one hit.

Equally impressive was Utah’s left handed pitcher, redshirt freshman Riley Pierce. In his start, he struck out nine batters, allowing no runs on four hits in six innings.

With two outs in the eighth, freshman Trent Schoeberl came in to pitch and struggled, conceding a hit, a walk and a two-run double as Utah pushed its lead to 4-0. The Gophers finally got on the board with a RBI triple from Wassel in the bottom of the eighth and scored again on a Ireland ground out. However, another two-out, two-run double from the Utes tasked Minnesota with coming back from four runs down in the ninth. 

Minnesota’s hitters did their best to create some drama. Junior Easton Bertrand slapped a bases-loaded single into center field with one out, bringing the winning run to the plate. But that was the last hit the Gophers would manage as junior Jack Kelly popped out to end the game.

Sunday – Minnesota 11, Utah 17

The series finale proved to be difficult for the Gophers on the mound, giving up 17 runs on 18 hits and 14 walks.

It was a back-and-forth battle in the early going as Minnesota and Utah were tied at five through four innings. But the Utes were able to attack the Gophers’ pitching and broke the game open with 12 runs from the fifth through eighth inning to take a commanding lead. Utah senior Chase Fernlund played an instrumental role at the plate, going 2-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored.

Redshirt sophomore Drake Davis’ start was cut short in the top of the third after giving up four runs on seven hits. However, Davis’ day was not as bad as that of the Gophers’ relief, which combined to give up 12 earned runs, 11 hits and 11 walks while only striking out five. Two relievers – junior Ryan Duffy and freshman Michael Gurka – did not record an out.

Despite the lack of pitching success, the Gophers had a good day at the plate, scoring 11 runs of their own on 16 hits. Raabe went 4-6 while redshirt freshman Otto Grimm drove in three runs on two hits.

Now 6-10, Minnesota will finish up its time at U.S. Bank Stadium with two games against Creighton this week. The Gophers will then hit the road for a nine-game trip featuring Air Force, No. 4 Texas Tech and Michigan State.