May 14, 1998
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The University of Minnesota pounded out 18 hits off four different Ohio State pitchers en route to a 10-2 win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at Illinois Field Thursday afternoon.
The Buckeyes fall to 37-15 on the year, while Minnesota improves to 43-13.
Six different Gophers collected at least two hits. The game featured two of the premier pitchers in the Big Ten in OSU’s Justin Fry (second team all-Big Ten) and Minnesota’s Ben Birk (third team all-Big Ten).
Fry, a preseason All-American, entered the contest ranked second in the conference in strikeouts (64 in Big Ten games). Birk, meanwhile, began the game with a minuscule 0.34 earned run average in four league appearances.
But on an 85-degree day where the sun was sizzling, Fry was not. A two-out mistake cost Fry in the first inning. With a runner on, Matt Groebner knocked his sixteenth home run of the year over the Big Ten Conference sign painted on the leftfield wall.
Minnesota proceeded to load the bases on a pair of singles and a walk, but Fry regrouped to blow a fastball past Matt Brosseau to end the inning.
Birk was extremely effective through the first three innings, facing the minimum nine batters and allowing only an infield single to the speedy Mike Lockwood (So., Powell, Ohio).
Fry was touched up again in the bottom of the third. A Mike Arlt single to right scored Rick Brosseau from second.
Minnesota again proceeded to load the bases on a pair of singles and a hit batsman. Fry appeared to have escaped trouble again though, as a curveball fooled Minnesota’s Robb Quinlan. The ball was in the dirt, however, and bounced all the way to the backstop, allowing Quinlan to reach first safely and Arlt to cross the plate.
Minnesota led 4-0 after three innings. After cruising for three innings, Birk hit a pothole in the fourth. Lockwood led off with a double, and co-captain Mark Carek (Sr., Bowling Green, Ohio) followed with a single through the left side of the infield. OSU first baseman Jason Trott (Jr., Dublin, Ohio) then drove a sacrafice fly to left field, scoring Lockwood.
The Minnesota defense bailed out Birk, however, as Mike Kremblas (Sr., Carroll, Ohio) smashed a groundball to second base that turned into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Groebner extended the lead to five runs in the fifth with a 410-foot homerun to straight away centerfield, his second of the day. That prompted OSU head coach Bob Todd to bring in freshman pitcher Kevin Goodrum (Fr., Mentor, Ohio), ending Fry’s day.
Goodrum proceeded to surrender three straight hits, and Minnesota led 7-1 after four innings. Fry continually got out in front of hitters but failed to finish them off. He started off 18 of the 23 hitters he faced with strikes, but fanned just three.
Birk continued his dominance of Ohio State hitters through the middle innings. During the fifth and sixth, Birk allowed just one single and racked up six fly ball outs.
Minnesota played longball for the third time in the sixth when Jeremy Negan went deep for the third time this year – a two out, two run shot over the leftfield wall.
OSU picked up its second run of the day when Trent McIllvain (Fr., Louisville, Ohio) singled home Chad Ehrnsberger (Fr., Kalida, Ohio) in the eighth.
The Buckeyes picked up a third run in the ninth when Dan Seimetz (Sr., Massillon, Ohio) singled home Dan Zabloudil (So., Newark, Ohio).
Ohio State will now face the loser of the Penn State-Illinois game tomorrow at noon. Minnesota will face the winner of that game at 3:30.