Minnesota Wins 2004 Regular Season And Conference Tournament Championship
May 30, 2004
MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota was finally able to stop Ohio State Sunday, defeating the Buckeyes, 7-3, to claim the Big Ten tournament title and the Conference's automatic bid into the NCAA bracket. With the win, Minnesota became the first team to win the tournament as the host team in nearly 10 years.
Ohio State was aiming to become the first team ever to win three consecutive Conference postseason titles. Last year, the Buckeyes played their way through the loser's bracket to beat the Gophers twice at Seibert. The team nearly accomplished the same feat this year, but came up just one game short. Dating back to the 2003 tournament, Ohio State is 7-1 in elimination games.
Minnesota (38-21) will now head to one of 16 regional sites announced by the NCAA today. Meanwhile, Ohio State (36-25) must wait until tomorrow when the 64-team field is announced to learn its tournament fate.
Senior Josh Krogman (3-1) got the win on the mound for Minnesota. Krogman did exactly what his team needed him to do, holding the potent Buckeye offense to just two runs in six innings. His counterpart, OSU junior Jesse Paciorek (1-4) also delivered a gutsy performance, despite being tagged with the loss. Paciorek, making just his third start of the year for a depleted Buckeye pitching bench, gave up three runs in 4.1 innings.
Carrying over its late momentum from last night, Minnesota got on the board first thanks to an RBI sac fly by senior catcher Jake Elder in the opening frame. Elder's run scoring drive to right was his 30th run-batted-in of the season. The damage in the inning could have been much worse, however, for Ohio State and Paciorek. Minnesota had loaded the bases against Paciorek with nobody out, but came up with only the one run.
The Gophers added a pair of runs in the third, on a looping single to right-center field by David Hrncirik. For Hrncirik, who made the final out in last night's game, the runs marked his sixth and seventh career Big Ten tournament RBIs.
The extra runs seemed to settle Krogman on the mound. Krogman looked dominant on the hill, allowing just one base runner over the next three innings.
Paciorek was pulled from the game after giving up back-to-back hits in the top of the fifth. Reliever Brett Hatcher, who worked two-thirds of an inning in last night's contest, ended the Gopher threat. Paciorek's gave up just one earned run on three hits in 4.1 innings pitched.
Minnesota loaded the bases again in the sixth and went on to add two more runs in the inning. Jared Sanders was the first Gopher to cross the plate in the frame, scoring when Tony Leseman grounded into a double play. Leseman was not credited with an RBI, however, because of the double play. Kommerstad also added a run to the score, reaching home on wild pitch by Hatcher.
Krogman's first real trouble of the game didn't come until the bottom of the sixth, when Ohio State loaded the bases with just one out. After a single by Steve Caravati, a walk to Cody Caughenbaugh, and an infield hit by Brett Garrard, Krogman battled to get a hot-hitting Ronnie Bourquin to ground into the inning ending, 4-6-3 double play. The play, including an excellent effort by Andy Hunter at first to dig out the ball, brought the 760 plus Gopher fans to their feet.
Accordingly, Hunter came to the plate in the very next inning, and with one pitch, extended the Gopher lead to 6-0. The homer off of new pitcher Trey Fausnaugh was Hunter's ninth of the season.
Ohio State cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the seventh, stringing together five singles in the inning- two against Krogman and three off of reliever Brian Bull. Base hits by Drew Anderson and Jacob Howell, and a groundout by Caravati drove in three Buckeye runs. For Caravati, the RBI was his 52nd of the season. Another outstanding play by Hunter at first prevented more OSU runs from crossing the plate, as he kept his foot on the bag while diving to make a catch from the shortstop Fornasiere.
Bull pitched 2.1 innings of one run baseball.
To close out the game for Minnesota, coach John Anderson didn't take any chances. Anderson brought out 2004 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Glen Perkins to get the final two outs. Perkins did give up a hit to the Player of the Year, Caravait, but quickly got the next two batters to begin the clebration.
Senior Derek Kinnear set a Big Ten tournament record in the game, tallying his fifth double of the week. The old record of four was last accomplished by Michigan State's Chris McCuiston in 2002.
Both coaches were forced to go without one of their superstars in Sunday's final. Sam Steidl, a unanimous first team all-Big Ten selection, was on the bench for the Gophers with two bruised knuckles on his throwing hand. Meanwhile, Ohio State coach Bob Todd was unable to use lefthander Scott Lewis on the mound. Lewis, who was named the 2003 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and underwent Tommy John surgery 12 months ago, was out with soreness in his pitching arm.
Rain fell off and on during the game in Minneapolis, as dark clouds moved in and out of the area. However, the contest was able to go on without any delays.