Another big lead, another loss

Aaron Blake

For the second time in four days, Minnesota’s baseball team blew a sizeable lead and suffered a disappointing loss.

The Gophers lost to Northern Iowa 7-6 in 10 innings Wednesday evening at Riverfront Stadium in Cedar Falls, Iowa, after springing out to a 6-1 lead after 3 1/2 innings.

Just last Sunday, Minnesota led 8-1 before Michigan crept back into the game and won 12-10 to gain a weekend series split.

“(The Panthers) didn’t allow us to put the game away in the first five innings,” Gophers coach John Anderson said of Wednesday’s game. “Then things swung back in their favor, and we had a fairly even game.

“They hit a couple balls out of the ballpark, and that was the difference in the game.”

The Gophers (12-11, 2-2 Big Ten) got all their offense in the first four innings before the Panthers (10-13) of the Missouri Valley Conference pieced together runs thanks to a pair of Dan Grant home runs in the fifth and seventh innings.

After Grant’s second homer knotted the game at six, the teams dueled into the 10th inning. In the home half, the Panthers’ Armando Lara started the inning with a walk-off home run off Minnesota closer Jeff Moen.

“We’ve kind of been in a lot of extra-inning games lately,” shortstop Matt Fornasiere said. “Losing off of walk-off home runs is a little bit different than any other way, but it’s still a game.”

Fornasiere led the Gophers offensively, going two-for-four with two runs and an RBI in the leadoff spot. Four other Gophers had RBIs in the game.

Pitcher Jay Gagner made just his second start of the season, allowing four hits and three earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Jonathan Holt pitched 2 1/3 innings and allowed Grant’s first home run before Brian Bull pitched the remainder of the first nine innings and gave up Grant’s second.

Moen was tagged with the loss with zero innings pitched.

The game was Northern Iowa’s first home game of the season – 23 games into it.

The Gophers have not played a home game since winning the Dairy Queen Classic title game against Florida State on March 7 at the Metrodome. Their first game at Siebert Field is next Wednesday versus South Dakota State.

And they have marked that day on their calendars.

“It always a joy to come home and come play at your own park,” third baseman David Hrncirik said. “You always like to think you have an advantage. It takes a little bit out of you having to travel every weekend.”