May 22, 2004
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Minnesota scored four runs in the second inning to break a 1-1 tie and Golden Gopher starting pitcher Jay Gagner retired a string of 13 batters and held the Buckeyes to four hits leading Minnesota to a 7-2 triumph and the Big Ten regular season championship in the night cap of a Saturday doubleheader.
Andy Hunter knocked in Sam Steidl to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but the Buckeyes countered in the top of the second, capitalizing on a back-to-back walks by Gagner. Brett Garrard (Sr., Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) and Ronnie Bourquin (Fr., Canton, Ohio/Canton South) reached on the free passes. Gagner responded with a strikeout but gave up a single to right-center field to Jacob Howell (Fr., Ashland, Ohio/Ashland) that scored Garrard from second. Bourquin moved to second on the play and then got to third by Kelly Houser (So., New Holland, Ohio/Adena).
Any Buckeye threat ended when Drew Anderson (Jr., Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) grounded into a 5-3 double play, which stranded a pair of base runners.
Minnesota exploded for four runs in the bottom of the second inning, which started with back-to-back home runs by Tony Leseman and Sean Kommerstad. Steidl kept things going with a single to left field and then stole second before OSU starter Trent Luyster (Jr., Flushing, Ohio/Harrison Central) walked Luke MacLean. That chased Luyster out of the game after only 1.0 inning of work as Jeffrey Carroll (Fr., Columbus, Ohio/Bishop Watterson), who got the win in the first game Saturday, came in to strikeout Matt Fornasiere after a double steal put both runners in scoring position. Jake Elder singled to left-center field to score both Steidl and MacLean as the Golden Gophers took a 5-1 lead. Elder delivered two more runs in the third inning with a two-out single to center field to extend the Minnesota lead to 7-1. After Carroll walked the leadoff batter in the inning, Brett Hatcher (Jr., Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine) came in. He struck out his first batter before a base hit and a walk but two on for Fornasiere, who struck out before Elder hit them in.
Including the double play that ended Ohio State’s second inning, Gagner retired 13 batters in a row until it was broken up with Garrard’s second home run of the day to lead off the top of the seventh. The home run pulled the Buckeyes within the five-run final.
Gagner improved to 4-0 on the season with the complete game victory, limiting the Buckeyes to four hits. He walked three and struck out two. Luyster fell to 4-5 with the loss.
Howell was 2-for-3 with one RBI to lead Ohio State at the plate. Stiedl was 4-for-4 to pace the Gophers.
Minnesota will now host the Big Ten Tournament, which gets underway Wednesday at Siebert Field. Seeds two through six have yet to be determined, but the field is set and includes Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue.
Ohio State and Minnesota conclude the series Sunday at 2:05 p.m. (EDT). NPR 820 (WOSU-AM) will broadcast the game. The Buckeyes must win their game and hope Michigan loses one game of its doubleheader Sunday vs. Penn State to clinch the No. 2 seed and first-round bye. The Wolverines hold the tie-breaker with Ohio State after taking three of four games in Columbus April 23-25. The Buckeyes can finish as either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed depending upon Sunday results.