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Gophers baseball wins Tuesday night thriller

Despite being down 4-0 in the first inning to North Dakota State, the Gophers rallied to win the game 12-9.
Four Gophers hit home runs throughout the game, including Neels Weber. Photo taken by Bjorn Franke from University Athletics.

Minnesota hosted North Dakota State University at Siebert Field on Tuesday night after their Big Ten home opener this past weekend. The Bison played the Gophers in a one-off game before heading southeast to play St. Thomas.

Both teams came into the game with an 8-22 record on the season.

It was a beautiful evening for baseball in Minneapolis with clear skies and warm weather for the first pitch.

The Gophers were struggling on defense out of the gate as Sam Hunt dropped a fly ball in the left field, allowing the Bison to get a man on second and third base. In turn, North Dakota exploded, tallying 4 runs in the top of the first inning, 2 of which were scored before they recorded their first out.

Minnesota responded in the bottom of the second inning. A sacrifice ground out from Hunt allowed Ike Mezzenga to score and a Kris Hokenson double to left center allowed Boston Merila to score as well.

The Bison managed 1 run in the top of the fourth inning, seemingly slowing the Gophers’ comeback.

However, Minnesota exploded in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring 4 runs to claim the lead, 6-5. Jake Perry’s ground out allowed Brady Jurgella to score. Weber Neels homered to left field and Hunt doubled to right field, permitting Merila and Mezzenga to score.

In a long sixth inning, North Dakota State bounced right back, recording 4 runs of their own to claim a 9-6 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Jurgella was walked on the first at-bat of the inning. The theme of changing leads would continue as pinch hitter Jake Larson hit a 2-run homer to close the gap to 9-8.

Unlike earlier in the game, the Gophers prevented the Bison from building on their lead in the top of the seventh inning.

With their energy rising, Minnesota looked to overtake North Dakota in the bottom of the seventh. Merila was walked to start the inning. Hokenson hit a single to center to get a second Gopher on base. At the next at-bat, Riley Swenson hit a 3-run homer to reclaim the lead for Minnesota.

Mezzenga hit another home run to right-center in the bottom of the eighth inning to increase the Gophers’ lead by 1.

Pitcher Seth Clausen, who came into the game in the top of the seventh inning, closed the game for Minnesota with a strikeout to give the Gophers a 12-9 win.

The back-and-forth game featured 11 different pitchers split between the two teams. Four different Gophers tallied a home run in the comeback win.

Minnesota looks to take its momentum into their weekend rivalry matchup versus Iowa at Siebert Field. Game one against the Hawkeyes is slated to be a maroon out on Friday starting at 3 p.m..

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