Daily File Photo, Alex Tuthill-Preus
The Gophers rallied from a three-run deficit in their first road game in more than three weeks but ultimately couldn’t complete the comeback against North Dakota State.
Minnesota didn’t have the lead at any point Tuesday night, but scored three runs in the seventh inning to force a tie, a stalemate that was broken with a walkoff single in the 10th inning that gave the Bison a 5-4 victory.
“It’s always tough. We had chances in the eighth and ninth, I know,” junior center fielder Dan Motl said. “It comes down to timely hitting and the fundamentals of the game and we didn’t do enough of that today in that last inning.”
The game started poorly for the Gophers when the Bison scored three runs in the first inning.
Starting pitcher Toby Anderson allowed only one earned run in his previous two midweek starts, but two singles, a double and a triple by North Dakota State put the Gophers behind quickly.
“They put some good swings on the ball in the first inning there,” Motl said. “We didn’t get down or anything. We knew we could get on their pitches, and we eventually did there in the seventh.”
Minnesota answered back with one run in the top of the third, thanks to Motl’s base running.
Motl was absent from the Gophers lineup for nine games after being hit by a pitch, and in his second at-bat back from his injury, he was hit by another one.
After being awarded first, Motl stole second with two outs in order to get into scoring position, and sophomore Matt Fiedler drove home for the Gophers’ first run.
The Bison came back with a run in their own in the fourth inning off Anderson, bringing their lead back to three.
But in the top of the seventh, the Gophers evened the game off of four hits and a passed ball.
Redshirt sophomore Matt Stemper started the rally with a single and moved over to third after a double from redshirt senior Tony Skjefte. A single from redshirt sophomore Jordan Smith scored Stemper, and Skjefte scored next on a passed ball.
One more single from freshman Micah Coffey scored Smith, and the Gophers and Bison were even at four runs apiece.
“We had a couple of really good at-bats put together and kind of fed off of each other,” Stemper said.
The Gophers had a chance to take the lead in the eighth inning but came up short. Minnesota had runners on first and third with no outs, but three straight strikeouts ended their scoring threat.
The game continued to extra innings, and eventually the Bison broke through in the bottom of the 10th inning. A single and a sacrifice bunt put a runner on second with one out, and a single two at-bats later gave North Dakota State a walkoff win.
“It’s always tough,” Stemper said. “It was a long day on the road, so you always got to get out and try to grind out a win, but they got the big hit at the right time, so you’ve got to tip your tap to them.”