With the Big Ten Tournament back on schedule, Iowa and Minnesota opened Saturday’s semifinal action. Advancing through bracket play 2-0, the Hawkeyes sat one win from a return trip to the tournament title game. But if Iowa is going to have a shot at redeeming last year’s second-place finish it’ll come after a long day at Bart Kaufman Field. With a 9-3 win by the Gophers, the two will meet again Saturday afternoon with each’s season in the balance. Here’s a look at how Minnesota kept their season and bid for a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance alive.
Gophers strike first
Riding the momentum from Friday’s comeback victory against Indiana, Minnesota struck quickly in the start to their semifinal against Indiana. A one-out walk drawn by shortstop Luke Pettersen was followed by back-to-back singles from Micah Coffey and Toby Hanson. Hanson’s run-scoring single up the middle was his ninth hit in 16 at-bats, the start 4-for-5 game with three RBI. The quick start would be a sign of things to come from the trio of Pettersen-Coffey-Hanson.
The Real McCoy
After starting the tournament with an 0-for-4 showing against Maryland, Iowa shortstop Mason McCoy has showed his all-conference ability over the last two games. On the heels of a 3-for-4 game against Nebraska, the senior hit a two-run home run to left field, giving the Hawkeyes a 2-1 lead in their first at-bat. McCoy finished the game with two runs and a walk in four plate appearances, now leading the Hawkeyes with a .330 average.
Meyer’s magnificent outing
Minnesota sophomore right-hander Reggie Meyer didn’t start the must-win contest on the right foot, hitting the first batter he faced before surrendering the home run to McCoy. But the right-hander settled in and gave John Anderson exactly what he needed in the elimination game. Pitching a career-high eight innings, Meyer struck out seven batters, also a career high, allowing three runs off four its in a 122-pitch outing. Starting Saturday needing to win three games over two days to claim the tournament title, Meyer’s outing was critical in keeping all but one Minnesota reliever rested.
Minnesota pours it on in the third
Going 1-2-3 in the top of the second, Minnesota went 1-2-3-4 in collecting hits to start the top of the third. The inning started with Jordan Kozicky reaching on an infield single, then scoring on a double down the left field line by Luke Pettersen. Back-to-back singles by Micah Coffey and Toby Hanson tied the game, 3-3. After a sacrifice bunt, a single by Jordan Smith pushed Coffey across with Hanson scoring in the next at-bat off of a fielder’s choice by Eddie Estrada. The four-run outburst saw the Gophers jump out in front and never look back.
Pettersen punches it around
Minnesota’s leading hitter, Pettersen has perfected the small man’s game. Entering the tournament with a .343 average, Pettersen’s stout clip was the product of 60 hits in 175 at-bats, 55 of which were singles. In four tournament games, Pettersen has picked up three doubles, including a one to start the sixth, before scoring on a single up the middle by third baseman Coffey, scoring Minnesota’s ninth and final run. Scoring four runs in a 2-for-3 game, Pettersen is 5-for-11 in the tournament.
Gophers get it done when it matters
Minnesota’s big win was spurred by hits in big situations. The Gophers batted .370 (10-27) with runners on base, .500 with runners in scoring position over 12 at-bats and went a perfect 5-for-5 with a runner at third base with less than two outs. Minnesota racked up 16 hits against the Hawkeyes, reaching double digits in hits for the fourth time in four tournament games.
Lizarraga saves Iowa’s season
With the game out of reach, Iowa needed to shift its focus to the day’s second game. In doing so, the Hawkeyes received quite the relief outing from Sammy Lizarraga. With four innings of relief to end the game, Lizarraga kept the Gophers off of the scoreboard, scattering just four hits. The sophomore right-handed struck out four batters without issuing a walk, allowing Rick Heller to used just two relievers in the game. Through three games, the Hawkeyes have used just six relievers.
Adams still in postseason slump
The Big Ten Player of the Year has yet to offensive prowess which led to him receiving the honor. In three games, Adams is 1-for-12 with one RBI. Adams’ lone it was a big one, a single up the middle to give Iowa a 2-0 lead in Friday’s game against Nebraska. But with their backs against the wall, the Hawkeyes need their three-hole hitter to break out, ideally adding to his school-record 24-home run season.
At-large possibility for Minnesota?
With their victory over Iowa, Minnesota has warranted mention of being on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The win improved the Gophers to 36-20 on the season, with a 13-9 mark against teams rated in the RPI’s top 100 by Warren Nolan. Finishing third in the Big Ten, taking three of five games against Indiana, challenging themselves with a non-conference that featured Long Beach State and Missouri State, going 16-5 on the road, Minnesota’s resume is appealing, outside of an RPI that currently rests at 66.
Putting the power in perspective
McCoy’s home run was the 28th of the tournament, three more than the prior four tournament’s combined. All but one of the tournament’s 11 games have featured a home run, Thursday night’s 5-2, Purdue-Maryland contest the exception.
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— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) May 27, 2017