Solid defense and intensity have played an integral role for Minnesota’s baseball team this season and were largely responsible for the Gophers’ seven-game winning streak entering Wednesday’s game with Northern Iowa. But a meltdown in both facets brought Minnesota’s win streak to an abrupt halt, as the Panthers knocked off the Gophers 7-4 at Siebert Field.
Northern Iowa (11-16) has defeated Minnesota in three straight games dating back to last season.
“We had been making all the plays on defense prior to today’s game,” second baseman Luke Appert said. “We just came out a little flat and didn’t make a few plays on ‘D’ and couldn’t get any timely hits. It just didn’t go our way.”
The Gophers’ defense gave the Panthers some help on the scoreboard, committing three errors that led to two unearned runs. Three errors are Minnesota’s most since committing five against Sacramento State on March 19.
“There’s only been three games this year of the 11 we lost that I thought we beat ourselves,” coach John Anderson said. “I think we beat ourselves a little bit because we didn’t make those plays.”
The Gophers started off in the hole as Northern Iowa center fielder Joe Burgett led off the game with a double off the left-field wall, and was promptly driven in by a single from second baseman Nate Heath.
Minnesota got the run back in the bottom half of the inning when center fielder Sam Steidl tagged up on a Luke Appert foul-out. But the run would be all the Gophers could manage until scoring a run in the seventh and adding two in the eighth.
Minnesota missed chances to come back, stranding two runners in each of the final two innings. Shortstop Scott Welch, who started the game at designated hitter, grounded to second for the final out, ending his 10-game hitting streak.
The Gophers finished with just six hits, one shy of its season low.
Minnesota (16-11, 6-0 Big Ten) gets a chance to bounce back this weekend with a four game series at home against Penn State.
The Lions (10-12, 5-3) are off to a hot start in conference play after finishing at the bottom of the Big Ten last season. Penn State opened conference play by winning three of four games at Purdue, then splitting a four-game series with defending Big Ten tournament champion Ohio State.
The Lions are tied for second in the conference with Indiana.