Gophers and Wildcats Split Doubleheader

Go Gophers! Handel's grand slam boosted the Gophers to a win in the noon game.
Go Gophers!
Handel's grand slam boosted the Gophers to a win in the noon game.
Go Gophers!

March 22, 2014

The University of Minnesota (12-7, 1-1 Big Ten) baseball team split a doubleheader against Northwestern Saturday in St. Charles, Mo. The two teams opened their Big Ten season at Lindenwood University’s Lou Brock Sports Complex in a home series for the Wildcats (4-15, 1-1 Big Ten).

Game 1: Gophers 5, Northwestern 1 - Box Score

Alec Crawford’s seven-inning start and a grand slam by shortstop Michael Handel led the Gophers to a 5-1 win in the noon game. The Gophers had nine hits, and the Wildcats had 11 hits and one error.

In Minnesota’s first turn at the plate, a single by third baseman Tony Skjefte and walks by catcher Mark Tatera and right fielder Bobby Juan loaded the bases. Handel hit a grand slam, his sixth career home run, over the left field fence to put the Gophers ahead 4-0.

Crawford stranded 10 Northwestern baserunners and held the Wildcats to one run in seven innings. He struck out five batters and walked only one.

Northwestern threatened to score in the fifth when left fielder Jack Mitchell (2-for-4), second baseman Nick Linne and shortstop Cody Stevens (2-for-3) loaded the bases with consecutive one-out singles. Crawford then struck out pinch hitter Jack Livingston swinging and right fielder Matt Hopfner looking to end the inning.

The next inning, the Wildcats had two no-out singles before a 6-4-3 double play and a strikeout ended the inning.

The Gophers also left their share of runners on base. They had two on with one out in both the second and third innings, but did not score in either inning. A double play with the bases loaded in the sixth ended another Minnesota scoring threat.

The Wildcats scored their sole run in the seventh. Mitchell and Stevens hit singles to get on base, then Hopfner hit in Mitchell.

The Gophers added a fifth run in the ninth. Schaefbauer walked and stole second, then Skjefte doubled him in.

Dalton Sawyer pitched two scoreless innings to earn his third save. He struck out the final two batters. Crawford (2-1) earned the win, and Northwestern starter Bradon Magallones (0-2) took the loss.

Game 2: Northwestern 4, Gophers 3 - Box Score

Right-handed reliever Toby Anderson pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings for the Gophers, but Northwestern held onto the lead it had since the first inning.  Each team had six hits. Northwestern committed two errors and Minnesota committed one.

First baseman Zach Jones hit an RBI double to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead in the first, and the Gophers never caught up. Aided by an error, they added two more runs in the second.

Minnesota got consecutive hits from first baseman Tyler Hanson and center fielder Jordan Smith (2-for-4) to start the third inning, but the next three batters made outs.

The Gophers cut Northwestern’s lead to 3-2 with two unearned runs in the fourth. Juan singled, Handel walked and both scored on an error that allowed left fielder Matt Stemper to reach base. But Stevens scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning to make it 4-2.

Anderson came in to get the final out of the fourth. He faced 14 batters to finish the game, just one over the minimum, allowing two hits and no walks and striking out two.

Minnesota again cut Northwestern’s lead to one run when Smith doubled and scored on an error, but the Wildcats again kept the Gophers from tying it up.

Starter Reed Mason (1-2) pitched six innings to earn the victory. Jordan Jess (0-3) took the loss for the Gophers. Jack Quigley earned his second save.

The Gophers and Wildcats will conclude their series with a game starting at 1 p.m. CDT Sunday.