The Gophers kept their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive on Saturday with a 9-6 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in a must-win semifinal matchup in the Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota entered the game with one loss in a double-elimination tournament, facing an OSU team that hadn’t yet faced defeat.
Max Meyer, whose murky injury status in no way indicated he’d see the mound again this season, returned to the rotation and dominated the Buckeyes for nearly six innings, striking out seven and allowing just three hits. Eduardo Estrada, Jr. homered twice in what became a thrilling, if not heartburn-inducing, offensive showcase in the late innings. Minnesota led 6-0 and 9-4 as late as the ninth inning when J.P. Massey wiggled out of trouble to secure the victory.
Because Ohio State lost for the first time in the tournament, the teams were set for a late-night rematch, but with the Michigan/Nebraska game running late tournament organizers decided to postpone the second game to Sunday morning. No one wants to start a college baseball game at 11 p.m., I guess.
Now, the Gophers must beat Ohio State one more time to advance to the conference championship, where they’d face Nebraska, the de facto home team. Because Nebraska has also lost once already, the championship will be a winner-take-all affair.