The Gophers completed a thrilling, come-from-behind victory over the UCLA Bruins in Saturday night’s NCAA Minneapolis Regional semifinal, scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning to claim a 3-2 victory and a place in the championship game Sunday night.
Freshman closer Max Meyer answered the call, going three strong innings and stymying the Bruin bats, racking up six Ks and allowing only one hit down the stretch. That gave the Minnesota offense some cover as it came out of a six-inning fog to eventually push across the winning run.
Shortshop Terrin Vavra singled to lead off the 10th and was pushed to second on an Eli Wilson sacrifice bunt. Micah Coffey then unloaded on a 1-1 fastball, ripping a double down the right field line to easily score Vavra and take the first lead of the game.
It wasn’t the first run that Vavra had scored. In the 8th, he led off the inning with a double, and Wilson knocked him in on a sharp single up the middle. With no outs at the time, it was a questionable call to send him home, but the throw was slightly off center and Vavra snuck his leg under the tag to tie the game at 2-2.
Freshman phenom and Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Patrick Fredrickson started the game and made it through six uneasy innings. His five walks and seven strikeouts had shades of Nuke LaLoosh, and he danced around jams that seemed to follow him inning to inning. However, after six full, he’d allowed only two runs (one earned) on four hits.
Zach Pettway, UCLA’s freshman starter, killed rally after rally during his seven strong innings, and it wasn’t until the Bruins went to their bullpen that the Minnesota bats came alive. Pettway showed great poise through much of the game, and held the Gophers in check, save for an early Alex Boxwell home run.
The game got off to a rocky start, time-wise, as the game faced a 30-minute lightning delay in the first inning, and threatened with rain later in the game. Both pitchers seemed a little off their game, with frequent mound visits needed general flow disruptions occurring frequently. And when all was said and done, the game finally ended at 12:15 am on Sunday morning.
- The Gophers are now the only team in the region at 2-0. Gonzaga and UCLA will play at 2 p.m. in an elimination game, with the winner facing Minnesota at 6 p.m. If the Gophers win that game they win the region and a spot in what’s looking like a Corvallis (Oregon State) Super Regional.
- If the Gophers lose the evening tilt, they face the same team again on Monday in a true sudden death matchup.
- This was the second time this season these two teams had met. In fact, Pettway was the starter on March 30th, when the Bruins beat the Gophers 6-1 in the DQ Classic at U.S. Bank Stadium.
- Minnesota was technically the away team in this game, despite being the #1 seed and the host of the regional, due to losing the pregame coin flip. It’s amazing how dumb that sentence is that I just wrote.