The Ten: Big Ten Tourney G1

The 2017 Big Ten Baseball Tournament started under gray skies and light rain coming down throughout the opening game between the tournament’s third seed Minnesota and sixth-seeded Indiana. In Bloomington, a comeback win for the Gophers saw the Hoosier faithful who braved the conditions leave Bart Kaufman Field in a gloomy mood. Here’s 10 highlights, moments and thoughts from Minnesota’s 5-4 win.

The weather was good enough

It was far from ideal game conditions, soggy and the temperature in the 50s, but the weather held off enough for the game to get in and played without any delay. Where up to 15 games need played by the end of Sunday to determine a conference champion, starting the tournament without a hitch is pretty important. To the benefit of the Big Ten, Bart  Kaufman Field has a turf field, the first time in the tournament’s history its been played on an artificial surface.

The Hoosiers strong support

And while the weather conditions weren’t the best to play baseball in, the steady stream of drizzle made sitting in the stands to watch the game pretty unbearable. Indiana was praised going into the tournament for the fan support it has built up over the last handful of years and the turnout by Hoosier Nation didn’t disappoint. Indiana’s athletic department deserves praise for embracing the tournament, and the fans earn a kudos for a strong turn out in subpar weather.

Indiana unable to take advantage

Though Minnesota out-hit Indiana, 10-7, IU had its share of advantages to take the tight contest. Minnesota starting pitcher Lucas Gilbreath issued two walks and tossed two wild pitches, and catcher Matt Stemper allowed a passed ball. The Hoosiers were successful in stealing three bases in three attempts, but a 2-8 showing with runners in scoring position doomed IU.

Gilbreath sharp enough

It was a pedestrian line, four runs allowed, all earned, off six hits in 5.1 innings, but Minnesota junior left-handed pitcher Lucas Gilbreath was good enough to keep his team in the game and give the Hoosiers a chance to win. The southpaw struck out six batters, tossing 53 of 90 pitches for strikes. In pitching into the sixth, Gilbreath helped save the Minnesota bullpen, John Anderson needing to only used Fred Manke and closer Brian Glowicki to secure the win.

Dedelow goes deep

Indiana has been the Big Ten’s most prolific home run-hitting team, entering the tournament with a conference-best 63. For the 27 MLB scouts on hand, the raw power up and down the IU lineup tickles their fancy. The Hoosiers’ home run attack is lead by senior outfielder Craig Dedelow, who collected 15 home runs during the final regular season of his career. Dedelow’s 16th home run of the year came in the fourth inning, giving Indiana it’s first lead of the game at 2-1. Dedelow leads a quartet of Hoosiers with at least nine home runs this season, where needing to go through the loser’s bracket, Indiana has the firepower to generate offense in a hurry.

Kozicky continues banner season

Named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team, Minnesota redshirt-freshman Jordan Kozicky dazzled in the regular season, compiling 48 hits in 141 at-bats for a .340 average. With an aggressive, fastball-seeking approach, Kozicky sent a two-run home run to left, in the bottom of the fifth, bringing the Gophers back within a run, 4-3, after Indiana jumped in front 4-1 with two runs in the top of the fifth. Kozicky’s fourth home run of the year came after two strikeouts in his first two at-bats, as he continues to be a spark plug atop the Gopher batting order.

Two-out hits the difference

Four of Minnesota’s five runs came with two outs. In the first, a single up the middle by Toby Hanson scored Terrin Varva, who doubled down the left field line two batters before. Kozicky’s home run came with two down and the winning run, Luke Pettersen scoring in the bottom of the seventh, came off a two-out single up the middle by Vavra. Adding further frustration to the Hoosiers and their inability to close out the inning, the hits by Hanson, Stemper’s sacrifice fly to score Coffey and Pettersen’s game-winning hit all came with two strikes.

Coffey’s heads up play

After Kozicky’s fifth-inning home run brought Minnesota within a run, the Hoosiers were set to find a bit of breathing room in their next at-bat. Third baseman Luke Miller opened the sixth with a single to left, moved to second on a throwing error off a sacrifice bunt attempt and advanced to third on an ensuing sacrifice bunt. On the first pitch from Manke, catcher Ryan Fineman skied a ball to center field, deep enough to have Miller cross home, giving IU a 5-3 lead. But Minnesota third baseman Micah Coffey, who earlier committed the throwing error, asked for an appeal, which was successful as Miller was determined to leave third early, erasing the run and getting Minnesota out of the inning. In their at-bat, it was Coffey who scored from third on a sacrifice to tie the game, 4-4.

Glowicki shows dominant form

Entering the game with a Hoosier on first, Glowicki was ask to record four outs to close the Gopher win. Picking up his 16th save of the season, Glowicki did just that. Using a fastball that the Bart Kaufman Field scoreboard said was between 91 and 94 MPH, Glowicki retired all four Hoosiers he faced, setting a new single-season saves record for the Golden Gophers. Glowicki is now in a tie with Louisville’s Lincoln Henzman for the most saves in the country.

At-large stays a possibility

Entering the tournament with an RPI of 81, Minnesota would need the Big Ten’s automatic bid to reach the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season if its spot in the ranking stayed still. But in beating Indiana, the No. 28 RPI team, Minnesota a chance to make a strong move up the rankings. The upward trend has a chance to continue if two-see Michigan, the No. 29 RPI team, beats seventh-seed Northwestern to setup a meeting between the two teams. The odds are still against Minnesota to reach a regional via an at-large berth, but if it were to happen, today’s win was a must.

 

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