Minnesota eliminated Wake Forest this afternoon 8-2 in College Station and earned themselves a right to play Texas A&M in regional final tonight.
Minnesota slowly built up a 4-0 lead over their first five at bats. Toby Hanson singled in Terrin Vavra in the first, Matt Fielder scored on a wild pitch in the 3rd and they scored two more in the 5th on back to back doubles by Hanson and Jordan Smith. Then it was Wake who clawed back into the game with a run in the bottom of the 5th and another in the bottom of the 7th to bring the game to within two runs, 4-2.
Both teams struggled much of the game to get key hits that would have either blown things open for the Gophers or for Wake Forest a chance to back into the game or even take the lead. Both teams left double-digit runners on base and for quite a while were unable to come through with the big hits.
But the top of the 8th, the Gophers finally got key hits to open the game up late when they batted around the order. Austin Boxwell doubled to open the inning and a batter later Matt Fiedler singled to give the Gophers 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Fiedler stole 2nd on a 3-1 pitch and then it was then Micah Coffey who doubled to score both Boxwell and Fiedler. Austin Athmann singled in Coffey and eventually Athmann scores on a Connor Schaefbauer sac fly and it was an 8-2 lead that the Gophers would not relinquish.
The Gopher pitching was very good this afternoon. In a surprise move, John Anderson decided not to start Matt Fiedler, the team's best overall player and usual Friday starter. Instead Anderson went with Lucas Gilbreath a sophomore lefty who made his first career collegiate start in an NCAA Regional elimination game. A bold move by the veteran coach with the Gophers win, it gives them an opportunity to put Fiedler up against A&M.
The Gophers face the region's top seed in Texas A&M tonight at 8:00 CST.
With this being their 4th game in 3 days there are some questions as to who is able to pitch and play for the Gophers.
If Matt Fiedler is indeed the starting pitcher, you may see Austin Athmann move to DH after a rough day catching and getting beat up with foul balls off his mask and shoulder. Matt Stemper came in to catch in the 8th. But you will need Athmann's hot bat in the lineup.
In the bullpen, I'm curious why the Gophers didn't try to save Jordan Jess for tonight's game with the big 8th inning and an 8-2 lead. They may have Ty McDevitt available after he pitched 3.1 innings on Saturday but maybe he could go again if needed. If Fiedler struggles early Tim Shannon could give some innings and Tyler Hanson should a reliable arm they can go to as well.
The Aggies will go with Turner Larkins tonight. A sophomore right-handed pitcher with a 3.03 ERA, 2-0 record and 4 starts on the season.
Tonight's game can be seen on the SEC Network. First pitch is at 8:00 CST.