Behind solo home runs from Eli Wilson and Terrin Vavra, the Minnesota Golden Gopher baseball team defeated the Purdue Boilermakers 6-4 to win the Big Ten Tournament Championship. It’s the tenth Big Ten Tournament title for the Gophers, the most of any school in Big Ten History. Minnesota will now find out it’s NCAA Tournament fate over the next 20 or so hours. At 7:30 Sunday the top 16 seeds will be named on the @NCAACWS twitter feed, and the full field of 64 will be announced At 11AM Monday on ESPNU.
The Gophers started junior lefty Nick Lackney on the hill for the title game. He got into a bit of trouble in the first as Purdue would string a single and a double to give the Boilermakers an early 1-0 lead. The Gophers would go down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first, but would tie the game at 1 on an Eli Wilson solo home run in the bottom of the second. Tne Gophers would take their first lead of the game on a Vavra solo shot in the bottom of the third to leas 2-1.
Lackney would go four innings and give up just the single run on five hits. Gopher relief ace Brett Schulze entered the game in the top of the fifth, and did not have his usual stuff. The Boilermakers would string together a few hits and would take the lead back 3-2 after the top of the fifth. Minnesota would tie it right back up in the bottom half when Ben Mezzinga singled in Toby Hanson to make it 3-3 after five innings. Purdue got to Schulze once again in the sixth and regained a 4-3 lead. Sam Thoreson would come in and get the last out of the sixth inning and would throw a perfect 1-2-3 seventh.
The Gophers took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth. Luke Petterson singled in Alex Boxwell to tie the game at four and Petterson would score on a shallow single from Mezzinga with a great slide to put the Gophers up 5-4.
Gopher closer Max Meyer entered the game in the top of the 8th looking for a six out save. Purdue threatened in the top of the 8th, but Mezzinga would throw out a Purdue runner at the plate to end the top of the 8th inning and leave the game scoreless. Hanson would add one more insurance run in the bottom of the 8th on a Vavra double to give the Gophers a 6-4 lead. Meyer finished out the game in the ninth with Vavra making a great play for the final out and the Gophers were both the regular season and tournament Big Ten Champions.
Minnesota SHOULD be one of the top 16 NCAA seeds and get to host a regional next weekend at Siebert Field when the top 16 teams are announced Sunday night. There was some talk over the last week or so about the Gophers not sending the NCAA a competitive bid to host a regional, but Gopher AD Mark Coyle refuted those rumors earlier in the week. If the Gophers don’t get to host, it will bring up a lot of questions. Minnesota entered the game against Purdue with the #14 RPI in the country and Purdue was #26. All of the websites that do projections of the field have Minnesota as a top 16 seed. Hopefully the NCAA agrees.