QUEENS, N.Y. – A storm chased both teams out of Jack Kaiser Stadium in the ninth inning, but the No. 12-ranked Gopher Baseball team led 8-4 after eight and would defeat St. John’s by that score in the team’s final non-conference match-up of the regular season on Tuesday afternoon.
After St. John’s (34-13) took advantage of an errant throw by the Gophers in the top of the first to score a run without the benefit of a hit, No. 12 Minnesota (35-13) had a quick response. With Luke Pettersen and Ben Mezzenga on base after a single and a walk in the third, Ben Mezzenga launched his eighth home run of the year to left field.
Vavra was not done with the long ball yet as he lifted another home run in his next at bat, stinging a ball to right center to greet reliever Turner French, who took over for Sam Lara (1-1) in the sixth. Lara finished with three earned on just two Gopher hits.
Right-hander Joshua Culliver started on the mound for the Gophers, allowing a run on two hits while striking out three in the first 2.2 innings. His third walk of the day ended his outing as Nick Lackney entered, and the southpaw got a strikeout to strand two for the Red Storm.
Lackney (4-2) finished his day allowing just one hit in 3.1 innings, while striking out three. With two on after a walk in the sixth, he got some help from his defense as Riley Smith crashed into the wall in right but made a leaping catch to end the inning and rob the Red Storm of extra bases.
Minnesota broke the game open in the eighth against three different pitchers for St. John’s. Alex Boxwell stole second and third after reaching on an infield hit, coming in to score on a throwing error by the Red Storm catcher. SJU had three errors in the inning, and the Gophers took advantage with four singles and two sacrifice flies, including Vavra’s fifth RBI of the day, eventually scoring four runs.
St. John’s took advantage as Minnesota walked two to load the bases in the bottom of the inning. A pair of RBI groundouts brought in two runs, and a single pulled the Red Storm within 8-4, but Fred Manke entered and threw just one pitch to get a grounder to escape the inning.
Terrin Vavra surpassed Cole McDevitt for the team lead with his eighth and ninth home runs … Vavra also extended his hitting streak to 11 games, a season-long for the Gophers … Minnesota’s last game of less than nine innings was a mercy-ruled 15-1 victory over Western Michigan in seven innings on Feb. 23, 2013.
Minnesota takes on Rutgers later this week in a three-game series to end the Big Ten Conference regular season. First pitch between the Gophers and Scarlet Knights is set for 1 p.m. ET on Thursday.
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