It’s been another disappointing season for the Minnesota Gophers baseball team in 2022, but they had arguably their best weekend of the season this past weekend taking two of three games from the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Siebert Field and winning their first Big Ten series since May of 2019.
The Gophers looked like their typical selves in Friday’s 12-5 loss. Sam Ireland got the start for the Gophers but only went 3.2 innings, striking out five but giving up nine hits and six earned runs. The Gophers gave up a pair of runs in the top of the first but battles back to take a 3-2 lead after two innings on a pair of singles, a walk, a hit batter and a pair of sac flies. Aided by a Cornhusker error they added a fourth run in the third on a pair of singles to make it 4-2. However, that’s when the Huskers bats came alive. Ireland gave up a pair of RBI singles and then gave up the big blow via a three-run home run to left by Max Anderson to make it 6-4 Nebraska and ending Ireland’s day. The Minnesota bullpen was not much better as Richie Hoeltz gave up a pair of runs in the 5th inning and one in the sixth to give Nebraska a 9-5 lead. The Huskers put the final nail in the coffin with a three run 9th to make the final 12-5.
Saturday was another quick offensive start from Nebraska, but Minnesota would claw their way back and walk off in dramatic fashion in the 12th inning. Minnesota starter JP Massey got hit hard early giving up 4 runs on 4 hits in just 1.2 innings of work. The Gophers struck back scoring three in the bottom of the first via a trio of singles, a pair of walks and a wild pitch. Nebraska took a 5-3 lead on a solo home run in the top of the third, but once again the Gophers kept pace as a Drew Stahl RBI double cut the lead to 5-4 after three innings. Minnesota tied the game at 5 on a Boston Merilla sac fly in the bottom of the 6th. Nebraska stormed back with three in the top of the 7th inning off of a walk and hit batter by George Klassen and a pair of walks and hit off of Noah DeLuga. However, Minnesota clawed back instead of letting Nebraska extend the lead scoring two in the bottom of the 8th thanks to some gifts from the Huskers. After a walk and an error put two on the Gophers had a runner caught between first and second base. However the Nebraska catcher airmailed the throw over the first baseman’s head and into the right field corner allowing both Minnesota runners to score to cut the lead to one.
We'll take that!— Minnesota Baseball (@GopherBaseball) May 8, 2022
One more to go! pic.twitter.com/s6N5oCzm9R
Minnesota would extend the game tying it up at 8 in the bottom of the 9th on an RBI single by Chase Stanke. They game would head through the extras into the 12th inning thanks to a huge throw from right fielder Jack Kelly in the top of the 10th to cut down the potential leading run.
JACK KELLY WITH A MISSLE TO KEEP US TIED pic.twitter.com/skKAfwA3sJ— Minnesota Baseball (@GopherBaseball) May 8, 2022
Josh Culliver came in to shut down a potential Nebraska rally in the 11th and threw a perfect 12th inning to set up the Minnesota walk-off. After a single and a walk Melilla came to the plate and ripped a single through the hole between third and short and Stahl came around from second base to score the winning run.
The two teams came back for the rubber match Sunday afternoon and for the first time in the series a pitching duel broke out. Aiden Maldonado threw seven great innings for the Gophers allowing just one run on five hits and striking out 8 batters in seven innings. Minnesota got one run in the fourth inning on a Riley Swenson sac fly, and Nebarasa would tie the game in the top of the fifth inning on a pair of doubles. It remained 1-1 until the bottom of the 7th inning when Noah Berghammer hit his first collegiate home run over the fence in left field to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead.
The Gophers added an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th on a hit batter, a single, a sac bunt, and an rbi groundout to make it 3-1. Jack Liffrig came in to pitch the last two innings and was nearly perfect facing just 6 batters and ending the game on a double play to erase the lone baserunner he allowed on a walk to earn the save.
Minnesota is now 4-14 in the Big Ten on the season and will head to Indian for a series next weekend in Bloomington before returning home to host Northwestern on the final weekend of the season.