May 20, 2001
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Minnesota and Michigan entered the Sunday as the two most prolific teams in the history of the tournament as the schools have combined to win 12 of 20 Big Ten Tournament titles.
The Golden Gophers rallied from two runs down to win the 2001 Big Ten Tournament, 3-2, over the Wolverines on a perfect afternoon at Bill Davis Stadium in front of 360 fans. With the win, the Golden Gophers (38-19) earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament this week. The loss ends Michigan’s (28-28) season.
The Gophers finished the tournament as the only undefeated team as they were victorious in all four games to claim the program’s sixth tournament championship and first since 1998.
In the third inning the Wolverines took advantage of a wild pitch by Minnesota starter Ben Birk to take an early 1-0 lead. Bill LaRosa and Scout Tousa opened the inning with back-to-back singles to right field. With runners on the corners, C.J. Ghannam dropped a sacrifice bunt to advance Tousa to second. Birk then walked Brock Koman to load the bases. A big inning looked imminent as there was only one out and designated hitter Jake Fox stepped into the batter’s box. Fox popped out to catcher Jeremy Beaulieu for the second out. Birk then uncorked a wild pitch with Jordan Cantalamessa at bat, allowing LaRossa to scoot across the plate for the games first run.
Michigan increased its lead to two in the top of the fourth when Gino Lollio launched his fourth home run of the season over the left-field wall of a 1-0 pitch from Birk.
Birk (7-1) would not allow another run as the senior gave up only two runs while scattering eight hits. He struck out seven and walked three in seven innings of work. Chad Drexler worked the final two innings, giving up one hit and struck out one-the final out of the game-for the save.
The Golden Gophers cut Michigan’s lead in half in the top of the sixth inning when Jason Kennedy crushed a 1-2 delivery from pitcher Jim Brauer over the left-field wall for his 10th bomb of the season. Minnesota erased the one-run deficit in the top of the seventh, using two infield singles and a Michigan error to take the lead. Shortstop Scott Welch opened the inning with a single to right field. Scott Howard sacrificed Welch to second, but reached first base on a throwing error by catcher Alex Coleman. Luke Appert followed with a bunt single up the third baseline to load the bases. David Roach then pinch hit for Beaulieu. He grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but in the process Welch scored to knot the game at two. Leadoff man Sam Steidl plated Howard with an infield single between third and short giving the Gophers a 3-2 advantage.
Jim Brauer, a freshman right-handed pitcher, stymied Minnesota batters all day long, but took the loss. He allowed three runs (one earned) and six hits in 6.2 innings. He stuck out three and walked four while falling to 4-4.
Minnesota head coach John Anderson
“Going into the last weekend, I reminded the guys they had to win as many games as they could, and they responded. The best way to keep playing was to keep winning. I think this was a goal of ours from the beginning of the season. We’ve overcome a lot of adversity this season and didn’t allow the setbacks to keep us from being focused. We have to keep trying to win and play good baseball because if we lose two games our season is over.”