The Gophers react to the winning run being walked home in the extra inning win over Arizona.

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The Big Ten Takes Day One Up North

At The Ballpark

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Oh man. You almost can’t script this stuff any better. Today’s first day of the Dairy Queen Classic – DBA the “Big 10-Pac 12 Challenge” – was a freakin’ panic. It was.

Three games. Three come-from-behind wins. Three late inning drama deciders. Three gutsy wins. Three gut-wrenching losses. Well, you get the idea.

If you’re keeping score at home the Big 10 won two of the three games. But really, this was essentially a tie if you ask me. Two of the games went extra innings and all three were decided in the eighth inning or later.

In the words of ESPN’s Mike Patrick, Hoh-lee Cow!

Illinois and Minnesota pulled out late rally Ws for the Big 10 and the middle game saw Washington rally to tie Michigan State in the ninth and win the dog gone thing in the 10th.

Hope you guys have some fingernails left. And remember, this is just day one.

All in all it was a great day at the Dairy Queen Classic at US Bank Stadium.

Here is how each game went down…

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GAME ONE
Illinois loses the lead, then retakes the lead in upending No. 11-ranked UCLA.

LINESCORE:
UCLA – 000 000 300 – 3  8  0
Illinois – 000 100 04x – 5  9  0

PITCHING
WP: Ryan Thompson, 1-0
LP: Brian Gadsby, 2-1
Save: Joey Gerber, 2

Tighten down that hat son! Joey Gerber picked up his second save of the season in today’s win.

TOP HITTERS.
Bruins:
– Jeremy Ydens, 2-for-5
– Jake Hirabayashi, 2-for-5, double, RBI
– Michael Toglia, 2-for-4, double, walk

Illini:
– Doran Turchin, 2-for-4, RBI
– Ben Troike, 2-for-5, double
– Michael Massey, 2-for-4, 2 doubles
– Grant Van Scoy, 1-for-4, 2RBI

RECORDS:
UCLA, 7-2
Illinois, 4-3

HOW IT WENT DOWN: 
The two starting pitchers did a bang-em-up job for both squads as these two teams headed into the seventh inning with UI holding on to a precarious 1-0 lead. Then, UCLA seemed to take control of the game with three runs in the top half of that frame as the first five batters went walk, single, RBI single, single and RBI walk. Jake Pries added a third RBI with a double play groundout.

That gave the boys of Westwood a 3-1 lead and with their noted pitching staff, it seemed like a safe lead to put a bet down on.

… until fate had other ideas.

Bruin coach John Savage went to Brian Gadsby in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Illini avalanche began. Gadsby seemed to be all over the place, walking three batters (one a bases-loaded freebie) and allowing one run to score via a wild pitch. Suddenly the game was tied 3-3 and Gadsby was still wild when nine-hole hitter Grant Van Scoy stepped to the plate with men on second and third. Wouldn’t you know it, Van Scoy ripped a fastball past the drawn-in infield and plated what would be the two winning runs.

Illinois 3rd baseman Grant Van Scoy (#27) had a day to jump about.

I have to admit, Van Scoy’s performance today was simply resplendent. He made a number of slick defensive plays at the hot corner and seemed to take away half the field from the Bruins – yeah, I know, that sounds like something you’d say about Deion Sanders in his prime time as an NFL cornerback, but it’s true. He covered bunts, laid out for grounders and went behind the bag at third to make plays and throw to first.

The fact that Van Scoy happened to get the game-winning hit was just icing on his cake, especially being the nine-hole hitter in the order for the Illini.

PICS
A few more images from today’s first game.

Howwwwwl!Mark Skonieczny gives a guttural yell after scoring for the Illini.

 

When I say Brian Gadsby was wild, I mean like THIS.

 

That wildness led to Doran Turchin scoring from third without the help of the batter.

 

Mercurial center fielder Zac Taylor narrowly misses this line drive, which led to UCLA’s first run.

 

In the end, it was the Illini that was left jumping for joy over the hard-fought win.

 

GAME TWO
Once again the two starting pitchers were stellar but the bullpens melted down a bit, and the Purple Reign was able to fall on the 10-inning victory.

LINESCORE:
Washington – 000 000 012 1 – 4  13  2
Michigan St – 000 000 021 0 – 3  7   0

PITCHING
WP: Alex Hardy
LP: Jake Lowery
Save: Stevie Emanuels

TOP HITTERS.
Huskies:
– Levi Jordan, 3-for-4
– Kaiser Weiss, 2-for-2, 2 doubles, RBI
– A.J. Graffanino, 2-for-5

Spartans:
– Bryce Kelley, 3-for-4, RBI
– Zach Iverson, 2-for-3, double, walk

RECORDS:
– Washington, 5-3
– Michigan State, 2-6

HOW IT WENT DOWN: 
Once again we saw the starting pitchers throw a very clean game, for the most part that is. Washington’s Joe DeMers and MSU’s Riley McCauley both helped their team put up zeroes for the first seven innings.

In the eighth inning, Washington finally busted through as a bunt single by leadoff man K.J. Brady would eventually pay off in an RBI flyout by Joe Wainhouse. But that lead would be short-lived as two crucial Udub fielding errors would help account for two Spartan runs in the bottom of the frame. Zach Iverson would lead off the inning with a single, then be bunted over and then knocked in by an RBI single from nine-hole hitter Bryce Kelley. An odd bounce on a big infield Baltimore chop by Justin Antoncic would score Kelley from second base and put the Big Green ahead 2-1 with three outs to go for Sparta.

But those three outs would be hard to come by as the Huskies tied the game with a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning. Kaiser Weiss, a freshman pinch hitter, led off the inning with a double and would be knocked in by Levi Jordan a batter later tying the game. Then, Washington looked like it was going to win the game when Jonathan Schiffer cranked an RBI double, scoring Weiss. But Duffy Dougherty U. wasn’t finished. The Spartans came back to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth after Danny Gleaves walked and was knocked in by a Dan Chmielewski RBI double. Hot damn, another tie game. Hot damn, this time we go to extra frames.

Freshman Kaiser Weiss would get the game-winning hit for Udub today.

But worry not, the game would not last much longer. Udub answered in the top of the 10th inning when Weiss, that precocious freshman, slugged an RBI double, scoring Wainhouse, who had singled with one out. That would be all the Huskies would need as lanky RHP Stevie Emanuels would come in and close things down with a four-up, three-down frame in the bottom of the 10th. The final out came on a sky-high pop up to catcher Nick Kahle.

“We weren’t the true road team, but we are on the road and winning a game like this is something to build on,” coach Lindsay Meggs would say afterward.

PICS
A few more images from the middle game.

Joe DeMers was rock solid again today pitching zeroes into the seventh.

 

Location, location, location… DeMers was heavy into spotting his fastball and then chopping his opponents with a lethal change-up.

 

After rehabbing from a broken leg at the end of last season, it was good to see Michigan State third-baseman Marty Bechina back in full form.

 

Bryce Kelley had a good game, but goes all scorpion-position on us here, just missing a line drive.

 

Stevie Emanuels would lock down the late lead for Washington, earning his second save of the season.

 

All eyes up.Big strapping Joe Wainhouse gets under one at US Bank Stadium today.

 

Levi Jordan – named after two of the most enduring brand names in American culture – led the Huskies with three hits today.

 

GAME THREE
Save the best for last, right? Well today the DQ Classic did just that. The home town faves were down 2-0 and looking anemic on offense. But some late-inning heroics would overcome the talented Arizona Wildcats in crunch time.

LINESCORE:
U. Arizona – 000 010 010 000 – 2  9  2
Minnesota – 000 000 011 001 – 3  11  1

PITCHING
WP: Brett Schulze
LP: Josh Haley
Save: None

TOP HITTERS.
Wildcats:
– Ryan Haug, 2-for-4
– Donta Williams, 2-for-5

Gophers:
– Luke Petterson, 3-for-5
– Tarrin Vavra, 2-for-5
– Jordan Kozicky, 2-for-6

RECORDS:
– Arizona, 5-4
– Minnesota, 8-2

Minnesota players converge on Cole McDevitt after he was able to cull the bases-loaded walk to win the game vs. Arizona.

HOW IT WENT DOWN: 
Well this one got downright crazy in the end. And after all the drama, maybe it’s only *right* that Minnesota ended up winning. Was it right they won on a bases loaded walk? Meh, not really. I kind of hate when games get decided like that. But in the end the scoreboard read Minnesota three, Arizona two. And now it’s case closed.

But had the Gophers NOT won this game they could have been bitching for years about a missed call at home plate that could’ve won the game without all that extra inning nonsense.

Down 2-0 in the eighth inning, Minnesota rallied with a Micah Coffey solo shot to dead centerfield (381 feet here at US Bank Stadium). Then, in the ninth inning and still trailing 2-1, Ben Mezzenga got on via a bunt single, then stole second, and then came charging toward home on a Jordan Kozicky single. As he approached home plate, he sort of slowed down since he was sure to be dead meat after the throw beat him by a step or so. But then Mezzenga stutter-stepped and tried to dive over Wildcat catcher Cesar Salazar. Mezzenga appeared to dive over the reach of Salazar. He touched home plate with that flipper-like protective glove you see baserunners wear nowadays, and immediately popped to his feet to see what the call was.

But home plate umpire Perry Costello either ruled that Salazar had made contact or that Mezzenga had missed the plate because he didn’t make a call immediately. After Salazar went over to touch him, Costello made the out call. Mezzenga was beside himself. And I have to admit, after seeing my series of photos, it looks like Mezzenga eluded the tag.

Here is how the procession of images looked (I should make a GIF out of this, shouldn’t I?)…

1- Mezzenga stutters as he reaches Salazar at home plate.

 

2- Mezzenga has liftoff. Salazar can’t quite seem to make the tag at his flying groin.

 

3- Cleared for landing. Mezzenga eludes the catcher’s mitt and puts his paw out to touch home.

 

4- “Got it!” Mezzenga touches home plate.

 

5- Mezzenga pops up excitedly, only to see that Salazar is applying a late tag and Perry Costello hasn’t made the call yet.

 

6- Udder disbelief. Mezzenga can’t believe it. Nor can the hometown fans. Tough call to make. Tough call was made.

 

After the Minnesota fans had nearly lost their voice contending that call, we went to extra innings.

Nobody threatened until the bottom of the 12th inning when The U got leadoff singles from Luke Petterson and Jordan Kozicky. Terrin Vara was intentionally walked to load the bases. After a force out at home, Cole McDevitt came to the dish determined to get the game-winner in the air. Arizona changed pitchers to send Robby Medel to the bump and he promptly walked McDevitt on a full count pitch.

Of course, euphoria ensued. Or maybe it was relief. Either way, this was a Ziploc-tight contest that could’ve gone either way… and, well, I guess it did. Only this time it favored the homestanding Minnesota Gophers.

PICS
A few more visuals from game three

Micah Coffey barks at his cohorts in the metallic box used as a dugout after slapping a home run over the center field wall in the eighth inning.

 

Arizona shortstop Jacob Blas snuffs out an extra inning rally by the Gophers with this double play. (And yes, those ARE football hashmarks left over from the Super Bowl three weeks ago)

 

The Arizona coaching staff is starting to show concern as the pressure mounts.

 

Brett Schulze was a Saturday starter as a sophomore for the Gophers last season but came out of the ‘pen tonight to lock down a huge W.

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