MINNEAPOLIS – The Gopher Baseball team played its second-straight extra-inning game on Saturday night but could not repeat its success of the night before as Minnesota fell 6-4 to Washington on day two of the DQ Classic-Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge at U.S. Bank Stadium.
An error on the Gopher infield helped Washington (6-3) take an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second, but Minnesota (8-3) had a quick answer in the bottom of the inning. Toby Hanson led off the inning with an infield hit, coming around to score after a single by Coffey, and two fly balls with Ben Mezzenga credited with the sacrifice fly.
Terrin Vavra deposited his first home run of the season over the baggie in right field to give Minnesota its first lead of the day with one out in the third. Cole McDevitt walked and eventually came around to score on a double by Hanson, who had worked two 10-plus pitch at-bats in his first two appearances. Micah Coffey followed that with a triple off the baggy in right center to score Hanson and chase starter Chris Micheles from the game after just 2.1 innings.
Nick Lackney produced a strong effort for the Gophers, striking out a career-high seven batters including four straight and the side in the fifth inning. He ran into some trouble in the sixth as Washington strung together two hits, a walk, and a wild pitch to pull within one.
“We got off to a relatively good start,” said Lackney. “The defense was able to keep us in the game long enough to get [the offense] s a chance to strike back. I would have liked to adjust a few pitches, a few plays in the infield to make them go our way, but that’s baseball. We made things work, and we competed.”
Sam Thoresen relieved Lackney in the seventh, and Washington’s AJ Graffanino followed up a walk to Braiden Ward with a double to the right field corner to tie the game. A hit batter followed but, Minnesota would get out of the inning without any further damage when Jordan Kozicky threw out Graffanino trying to score on a single and then Eli Wilson tossed the ball on to Luke Pettersen who was covering third to get Nick Kahle trying to advance on the throw.
Back-to-back doubles off rookie pitchers Joshua Culliver (1-1) and Bubba Horton helped the Huskies plate two runs in the top of the tenth. Washington’s bullpen did the job from there as the trio of relievers scattered four hits in 7.2 innings of work, striking out six in the process. Stevie Emanuels (2-1) picked up the victory, working the last out of the ninth and the tenth.
“We’ve had two long nights. Two extra-inning games. You can say you’re tired and feel sorry for yourself because you lost last night or you can come back, have the right attitude, and get after it. It will be interesting to see how we respond.” – Head coach John Anderson on expectations for the team in Sunday’s DQ Classic finale
Minnesota fell in extra innings for the first time this season and the first time since a 7-5 loss to Iowa in 13 innings at the Big ten Tournament last year on May 27, 2017 … Lackney’s seven strikeouts were also a season-high for the Gophers as a team … Vavra’s home run was his first since April 21, 2017 against Nebraska.
Minnesota will close out play at the DQ Classic-Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge on Sunday night as the Gophers take on UCLA (8-2). First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
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