The University of Minnesota baseball team used a three-run fourth inning to erase a 3-1 deficit and defeat Western Illinois, 5-3, today at the H.H.H. Metrodome. With the win, the Golden Gophers (10-5) swept the Leathernecks in the three-game series.
Lance Thonvold came in relief and picked up his first win of the season. Thonvold went 3.2 innings pitched, did not allow a hit, struck out six and walked two. Jordan Jess started the game and allowed three runs and struck out four in the no decision. Alex Tukey pitched an inning and struck out one, while Billy Soule closed the game and earned his fifth save of the year.
Western Illinois took its first lead of the weekend when it knocked in two runs in the top of the first. With three doubles in the first inning, the Leathernecks scored two runs. Brent Turner led off the game with a double, while Jameson Henning switched spots with a RBI double. Jake Moore would hit a ground-rule double to left center to put the score at 2-0.
Minnesota would get a run back in the bottom of the frame when Henkemeyer came in to score on a RBI double by Schaefbauer. The Leathernecks, however, put the game back to a two-run lead when Manny Reyes plated Henning after he reached base on a walk.
The Leathernecks threatened in the top of the fourth. Jess was replaced by Thonvold after Joey White reached base on a hit by pitch and one out. Thonvold entered the game and walk Tanner Glore to put two on and both advanced to scoring position with a grounder to first. Thonvold battled Erik Maki with a nine-pitch at bat as Maki kept fouling off the pitches from a 1-2 count. Thonvold, however, won the battle as Maki struck out looking on the ninth pitch to strand two runners.
The Gophers responded when it pushed across three in the bottom of the fourth for the 4-3 lead. Bobby Juan led off the inning with single up the middle and stole second base. Larson would get an infield single, but on a throwing error to first, Juan would come in to score the second Gopher run. Larson moved up to third on two infield grounders and came home to score on a Henkemeyer double that went to the left field warning track wall. Schaefbauer pushed across the third Gopher run of the inning and his second RBI of the game on a single.
Minnesota added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh inning to put the score at the 5-3 final. Henkemeyer and Dan Olinger both walked in the inning to put two on, one out. With a pitch in the dirt, Henkemeyer and Olinger attempted to take an extra base, but Henkemeyer was caught on a catcher-third base putout. Olinger, however, took second on the wild pitch and moved to third, also on a wild pitch. Western Illinois walked its third batter of the inning (Handel) to put runners on the corners with two outs. As pitcher Tyler Owings attempted to throw to first, the first-baseman Moore dropped the ball. With a heads up play at third, Olinger went home as the ball rolled behind Moore for the fifth and final Gopher run.
The Leathernecks attempted a comeback in the ninth when Mark Garton led off the inning with a single, while Joey White walked. They both moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt, placing two in scoring position. However, Turner lined out to Handel and he threw to third as WIU hit into a game-ending double play.
The sweep marks the first of the year for the Gophers and the first since March 23-25, 2012 against The Citadel.
Minnesota will play five games in six days, starting with a two-game series against Nebraska Omaha, March 12-13. The Gophers and Mavericks play at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday and follow with a 3:05 p.m. game Wednesday. The Gophers then host Indiana State, March 15-17. Friday’s matchup will include two of the best LHP in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft. Indiana State’s Sean Manaea entered his junior year as the No. 3 overall draft prospect. Gopher Friday starter includes Tom Windle, who is also a highly touted draft selection and is coming off a no-hitter Friday. Game times against Indiana State are 6:35 p.m. Friday, 2:05 p.m. Saturday and 12:05 p.m. Sunday.