9th-Inning Error Costs Hawkeyes

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April 18, 2014

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — A costly error in the top of the ninth inning sent Minnesota to a 4-3 series-opening victory over the University of Iowa baseball team on Friday night at Banks Field.

“This was a tough loss on a night when we had a couple of opportunities late to win it, and just didn’t,” said UI head coach Rick Heller. “It was a very well-played college baseball game and unfortunately, we weren’t able to find a way to win it.”

After getting out of a bases loaded jam with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Gophers pushed the go-ahead run across the plate in the top of the ninth. Minnesota opened the frame with a single and walk to chase UI reliever Nick Hibbing from the contest in favor of sophomore Tyler Radtke.

After striking out Jake Bergren for the first out, Minnesota’s Dan Motl lined a ball to right field to a charging Taylor Zeutenhorst. In a dead sprint, Zeutenhorst over ran the ball after losing it in the lights and Mark Tatera scored from second on the play, giving Minnesota a 4-3 lead.

“We need to make plays when plays need to be made,” said Heller. “When it’s your chance to make a play, you have to make it, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Minnesota reliever Dalton Sawyer (3-2) closed out the victory, pitching around a two-out single by Nick Day to send the Gophers to the win. Sawyer allowed one hit in 1 2/3 innings and struck out three in the contest. Gopher starter Alec Crawford pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with three strikeouts.

Hibbing (0-3) suffered the loss, allowing one run on a single hit in an inning of relief. Iowa starter Calvin Mathews pitched seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits with two strikeouts. Mathews cruised through five innings, allowing two base runners.

“I don’t think it was Calvin’s absolute best stuff, but he gave us a chance,” said Heller. “He went out and competed, which he always does.”

Iowa struck first, scoring the game’s first run in the third inning in its second time through the order against Crawford. Junior Eric Toole laced a one-out triple into the right centerfield gap, reaching third base standing up before junior Jake Mangler followed with an RBI groundout to second base, giving Iowa a 1-0 lead. After Mathews got a acrobatic defensive gem from Toole to keep Iowa up 1-0 in the fourth, the Gophers got to the right-hander in the sixth. Mathews plunked Motl to lead off the inning before Connor Schaefbauer followed with a single through the left side to put two runners on.

Dan Olinger drove in Minnesota’s first run with a sacrifice fly to center field before Michael Handel hit the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for a two-run shot, giving the Gophers a 3-1 advantage.

Iowa fought back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, plating two runs on three hits. Junior Jake Yacinich jump-started the rally with a one-out single up the middle before Zeutenhorst hit a two-run homer to left centerfield to tie the game at three. It was Zeutenhorst’s sixth blast and Iowa’s first home run at home this season.

The Hawkeyes finished with eight hits in the game, snapping their string of six-straight contests with 10 or more hits. Toole (2-for-5, 1 run) and junior Kris Goodman (2-for-4) both had multi-hit games.

Game two of the series will begin at 2 p.m. (CT) Saturday.

Minnesota 4, Iowa 3 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota (18-15, 6-7) 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 1 4 7 2
Iowa (20-15, 5-8) 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 3 8 1
Game Decision
W: Sawyer (MINN) 3-2
L: Hibbing (IOWA) 0-3