April 11, 2014
After coming back from a 5-0 deficit, the University of Minnesota (17-12, 5-5 Big Ten) lost 8-6 to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers (21-14, 5-2 Big Ten) scored twice in the ninth inning to win the series opener at Siebert Field.
Shortstop Michael Handel hit 4-for-5 with a double, a run and an RBI for the Golden Gophers. Michael Pritchard (2-for-5) and Ben Miller (2-for-3) each hit home runs for Nebraska. Nebraska had 13 hits to Minnesota’s 12.
Both of the Cornhuskers’ home runs came with two outs in the first inning. Pritchard hit his to center field with the bases empty. Pat Kelly and Austin Darby followed with a double and a single, respectively, before Miller’s two-run homer to right put Nebraska up 4-0.
The Cornhuskers added a run in the second. Blake Headley’s RBI single scored Jake Placzek.
Gophers’ starter Alec Crawford then pitched three scoreless innings, including striking out the side in the third, before giving up one more run on three hits in the sixth. Crawford struck out seven batters and gave up six runs on 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Minnesota put four runs on the board in the fifth. Outfielder Jordan Smith led off with a single to right. Designated hitter Troy Traxler and catcher Mark Tatera took back-to-back walks to load the bases. Left fielder Jake Bergren and pinch hitter Bobby Juan hit back-to-back RBI singles to cut the Huskers’ lead to 5-2. The Cornhuskers turned a 3-2 double play for the first two outs, then third baseman Tony Skjefte hit in two runs with a single to center to cut the deficit to one.
Each team scored one run in the sixth. For the Huskers, Miller scored on a single by Steven Reveles. For the Gophers, Handel scored on a ground-rule double by Tatera that forced Traxler to stop at third rather than trying for the scoring run. The run was charged to starter Chance Sinclair, who had been relieved by Zach Hirsch after Handel led off the inning with a single.
Minnesota did tie the game 6-6 in the seventh. Second baseman Connor Schaefbauer drew a leadoff walk and scored on Handel’s double to right.
Nebraska took the lead back in the ninth. The Huskers got two runners on base with back-to-back one-out hits from Placzek and Pritchard. Placzek scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. Pritchard scored on a single by Darby to make it 8-6.
Schaefbauer and Handel both reached base on singles in the ninth, but the Gophers could not score. Josh Roeder earned the save for Nebraska, and Hirsch got the win to improve to 4-0. Dalton Sawyer (2-1) took the loss for Minnesota.
The Gophers and Cornhuskers will return to the field Saturday for the second game of the series. First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m. As part of pitching coach Todd Oakes’ Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Man of the Year campaign, volunteers will collect donations for research to “Strike Out Cancer.”
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