June 6, 2010

Courtesy of Minnesota Athletics

The Minnesota baseball team (32-28) rallied from 3-0 and 4-3 deficits to defeat New Mexico (38-21) 6-4 in 10 innings in the NCAA Regionals at Goodwin Field in Fullerton, Calif. on Saturday, June 5.

With the victory, Minnesota advances to the championship game where it will face either Cal State Fullerton or New Mexico on Sunday, Jun 6 at 10 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU. That first game between the Lobos and Titans will be at 6 p.m. (CT). If the Golden Gophers win tomorrow they would advance to the Super Regionals for the first time in school history. Both New Mexico and Cal State Fullerton need tomorrow and defeat the Gophers twice to advance to the Super Regionals.

"It was another great ballgame tonight," said Minnesota Head Coach John Anderson. "It felt like a heavyweight boxing match with the game going back and forth. A couple big things happened tonight. One of the biggest plays came in the first inning when we got the runner at home on a great relay play, and Kyle (Knudson) had the presence to get up and throw the runner out going to third. It was big because we minimized the damage, and who knows where the game goes if they have a big inning there. I also thought TJ (Oakes) did a tremendous job keeping us in the game and executing pitches so we would have a chance at the end. Our kids battled and fought their way back into the game, and Scott (Matyas) told our players if we could get him one run he would deliver a victory. Give credit to New Mexico, their kids competed and they played extremely well tonight."

Minnesota entered the top of the eighth inning trailing 4-3 after the Lobos had pushed a run across in the bottom of the seventh. Nick O'Shea (Blaine, Minn.) was hit by a pitch and moved to third after Matt Puhl (North St. Paul, Minn.) singled off reliever Richard Olson. O'Shea came home to score on a balk to tie the game at 4-4, and Puhl moved to second. Kyle Geason (Eden Prairie, Minn.) followed with a single to make it first and third.

New Mexico reliever Gabe Aguilar responded by striking out pinch-hitter Trip Schultz (Forest Lake, Minn.) and getting Troy Larson (Maplewood, Minn.) ground into an inning-ending double play.

The game remained tied going into the top of the 10th. After Aguilar had retired the Gophers in order in the ninth, Kyle Knudson (Maple Grove, Minn.) led off with a single up the middle, and moved to second on a single by O'Shea to make it first and second. Puhl followed with a clutch RBI single to right field to give Minnesota its first lead of the night at 5-4. Geason followed with an RBI single to move the score to 6-4.

Minnesota made it second and third with one out, when Puhl was thrown out at second on a bunt by Schultz. The New Mexico third baseman tried to turn a double play by threw the ball away to allow Geason to get to third and Schultz to second. Lobos' reliever Austin House retired the final two batters to keep the score at 6-4.

Golden Gopher closer Scott Matyas (North Prairie, Wis.) struck out the final three batters to give Minnesota the victory. Matyas pitched three innings, gave up one walk and struck out a career-high eight batters to pick up the win. He ended up striking out the final eight New Mexico batters he faced. With the win, Matyas moved to 5-1 on the season. In two outings in the NCAA Regionals, he has a win, a save, has retired 12 of the 13 batters he has faced and has nine strikeouts. He is also 2-0 with two saves with a 1.13 ERA and 15 strikeouts in eight innings in four postseason appearances.

"I think we all had the confidence and expected to be here at this point," said Matyas. "If you take a look at our season, we obviously started off slow and were not playing good baseball at the beginning. These guys came to practice and worked hard every day to get better. The record we have put up recently winning 15 of our last 18 has been amazing. We knew we would be a tough draw for any No. 1 seed we would play. The way we are playing we feel confident we can compete with anyone. Hopefully, we can continue to compete the way we have and come out and get a win tomorrow."

Minnesota starter TJ Oakes (Jordan, Minn.) took the no-decision as he went seven innings, gave up seven hits, two earned runs, walked one and struck out a career-best six batters. For a second straight outing, Oakes went seven innings in a crucial postseason start for the Gophers.

New Mexico starter Rudy Jaramillo had a no-decision as he went seven innings, gave up 10 hits, four runs, walked one and struck out three. Aguilar ended up giving up four hits, two runs, and struck out three in 2.1 innings of work. He took the loss to fall to 1-1.

Junior Michael Kvasnicka (Lakeville, Minn.) and Puhl were each 3-for-5 with an RBI on the night. Kvasnicka also collected his 24th double of the year. O'Shea reached base three times, and was 2-for-4 with three runs, while Knudson was 2-for-5 with a home run, two runs and an RBI. Geason also finished 2-for-4 with two RBI. Minnesota's 3-through-7 hitters in the lineup went a combined 12-for-23 with five runs and five RBI.

New Mexico got on the board in the bottom of the first inning with a single run. Adam Courcha drew a walk, and moved to second on a single by Justin Howard. With one out, Ryan Honeycutt roped a double to right field. Courcha came home to score, but Minnesota threw out Howard at the plate on when Kvasnicka delivered a throw to Puhl who threw out Howard at home on a great relay throw. Honeycutt broke for third, but Knudson popped up and threw him out at third base for the third out of the inning.

The Lobos pushed two more runs across the plate in the bottom of the second inning to move the score to 3-0. Chris Juarez led off the inning by reaching on an error, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Max Willet. Cameron Smith plated Juarez with an RBI single to move the score to 2-0. Alex Allbritton followed with a double to make it second and third, and Daniel Gonzalez plated Smith on an RBI ground out to push the lead to three runs.

Minnesota cut the lead to 3-2 with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning. Knudson got things started with a solo homer to left center field to make it 3-1. O'Shea followed with a bloop-double, moved to third on a fielder's choice play by Puhl, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Geason.

The Golden Gophers threatened to tie the game in the top of the sixth, but fell short. Kvasnicka led off with a single, moved to second on a single by Puhl and advanced to third when Geason reached on an error. Jaramillo got out of the inning by striking out Ryan Abrahamson (Oakdale, Minn.) to end the inning.

Minnesota would cash in on another chance to tie the game in the top of the seventh. Larson led off with a drag bunt single to start the inning. Kurt Schlangen (Albany, Minn.) hit a grounder to the pitcher on a hit-and-run play that advanced Larson to second. Kvasnicka followed with an RBI double to tie the game at 3-3.

New Mexico took the lead back with a single run in the bottom of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead. With one out, Cameron Smith single through the left side on a ball that took a wicked hop over a diving AJ Pettersen's (Minnetonka, Minn.) glove. Alex Allbritton reached on a fielder's choice and Smith forced for the second out at second. Daniel Gonzalez followed with a bloop-single that bounced past a diving Larson in center field. Allbritton came spring around and scored to move the Lobos ahead.

Gonzalez finished 1-for-4 with two RBI, while Smith was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI.