Minnesota Baseball Eliminated From NCAA Regionals By No. 9 Arizona State
June 5, 2004
The Minnesota baseball team (38-23) fought back from a 5-0 deficit, but fell short as it lost to Arizona State 6-4 in the NCAA Regionals on Saturday, June 5 at Goodwin Field. With the loss Minnesota saw its 2004 season come to an end at the hands of the Sun Devils. Minnesota fell behind 5-0 after Arizona State scored three runs in the top of the first and two in the top of the fourth inning. The Golden Gophers scored a single run in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to 5-1. Minnesota cut the lead to 5-3 with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Arizona State came right back with a single insurance run in the top of the seventh to make it 6-3, but the Golden Gophers answered back with one run in the bottom of the eight to cut the lead to 6-4.
That set the stage for the bottom of the ninth inning. After Arizona State reliever Zechry Zincola recorded the first out of the inning, Minnesota senior Sam Steidl (Alexandria, Minn.) got things going with a single up the middle in what would end up as his final at-bat as a Golden Gopher. Luke MacLean (Bloomington, Minn.) followed with a bloop single to right field to make it first and second with one out. Matt Fornasiere (Maple Grove, Minn.) moved both runners up to second and third on a groundout to the second baseman for the second out of the inning.
Arizona State intentionally walked Andy Hunter (West St. Paul, Minn.) to load the bases. Redshirt freshman Mike Mee (Richfield, Minn.) worked the count to 3-2, but flew out to the Arizona State centerfielder to give the Sun Devils the 6-4 victory.
"I was a little disappointed that I did not get to swing the bat in the ninth inning in that key situation," said Hunter. "I was not sure if they would intentionally walk me, but they did. After that I had all the confidence Mike (Mee) would come up with a big hit for us. Mike worked the count real well and got a good swing on it, but it was just not meant to fall. We had our chances in this game to win, and that is all you can ask for."
Minnesota was led by sophomore Andy Hunter (West St. Paul, Minn.) who was three-for-four with a home run, two runs and two RBI. Luke MacLean (Bloomington, Minn.) was two-for-four with one run, while David Hrncirik (Madison, Wis.) was also two-for- four on the day. Mee and Jake Elder (Delta, British Columbia) also had one RBI apiece for Minnesota in the game.
"I thought our team did a good job of fighting back to put ourselves in a situation to win late in the game," said Minnesota Head Coach John Anderson. "I am extremely proud of this team for its accomplishments this season. We have a lot of talented, young position players on our team, but Sam (Steidl) was our only senior position player. We have a good young nucleus of talented position players. Sam (Steidl) did a great job in his last at-bat to give us a chance. He has played injured this whole tournament, and did not get a chance to play at 100 percent which is unfortunate for him in his senior season. I am extremely proud of the way he played this week, along with the rest of our team. They never gave in and fought hard all the way until the final out."
Arizona State got on the board early with three runs in the top of the first inning to go up 3-0. Dustin Pedroia started with a leadoff walk and moved to second on a single by Travis Buck. Jeff Larish singled with one out to load the bases for the Sun Devils. Tuffy Gosewich put Arizona State ahead 1-0 when he brought Pedroia home with an RBI groundout to the shortstop. Joe Persichina followed by delivering a two-out single to bring home Buck and Larish to put the Sun Devils ahead 3-0.
The Sun Devils added two runs in the top of the fourth to go up 5-0. Perischina led off the inning with a single, and moved to second on a passed ball with no outs. Perischina moved up to third on a ground out by pinch-hitter Nick Walsh. After Colin Curtis was hit by a pitch and stole second, Seth Dhaenens brought home Perischina with an RBI groundout to first base to make it 4-0. Curtis moved to third on the groundout, and came home on a Pedroia single to move Arizona State ahead 5-0.
Minnesota answered with a single run in bottom of the fourth inning to cut the lead to 5-1. Andy Hunter (West St. Paul, Minn.) led off the inning with a solo home run to right field to cut the lead to four runs for Minnesota. Mike Mee (Richfield, Minn.) followed with a walk, but was wiped out on a double play.
The Golden Gophers cut the lead to 5-3 with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. MacLean led off the inning with a single, and moved to second on a single by Fornasiere. Hunter followed with an RBI single to right field to cut the Arizona State lead to 5-2. Mee drew his second walk of the game to load the bases. Elder followed with a sacrifice fly to right field that brought home Fornasiere to make the score 5-3. Hunter also moved up to third on the play. Hrncirik moved ahead 3-0 on the count, but Zinnicola got back a 3-2 count, and induced a double play to end the inning to get out of the jam.
Arizona State got runners on first and third to start the top of the seventh inning on back-to-back singles by Pedroia and Buck. Josh Assanovich had a fielder's choice groundout RBI to bring home Pedroia to make the score 6-3. Minnesota senior righthander Craig Molldrem (Boscobel, Wis.) got Jeff Larish to ground into a double play to get out of the inning without further damage.
Minnesota scored a single run in the eighth inning to cut the lead to 6-4. Hunter led off with a double, and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Mee brought Hunter home with an RBI groundout to cut the score 6-4.
Golden Gopher starter Jay Gagner (Cumberland, Wis.) took his first loss of the season to drop to 5-1. In his final collegiate start, Gagner gave up four hits, three earned runs and struck out two in two and two thirds innings. Molldrem came in and gave up five hits, two earned runs and struck out two batters in four and two thirds innings in his final collegiate outing. Minnesota freshman John Gaub (South St. Paul, Minn.) pitched a perfect one and two thirds innings of relief and struck out three batters in relief.
Arizona State's Jason Urquidez went five and a third innings, gave up six hits, three earned runs and struck out four batters to pick up the victory for the Sun Devils. Urquidez picked up the win to move to 12-3 on the season. Zinnicola pitched three and two thirds innings, gave up four hits, one run and struck out three to get his eighth save of the season.
Perishcina paced Arizona State going two-for-four with two RBI and a run. Buck also led the Sun Devils with three hits on the day going three-for-five.
With the loss the Golden Gopher careers of Steidl, Gagner, Molldrem, Gary Dick (Grand Rapids, Minn.), Jared Sanders (Merrill, Wis.), Jonathan Holt (Mondovi, Wis.) and Jeff Moen (Glenwood, Minn.) all came to an end.
Steidl finished his career second on the Minnesota all-time hits list with 309 in his four-year career. Steidl also finished sixth in total bases with 370, sixth in runs scored with 198, tied for sixth in games played with 229, eighth in doubles with 49, fourth in stolen bases with 63 and ninth in career batting average at .363.
This year's four-year seniors (Jeff Moen, Gary Dick, Sam Steidl, Craig Molldrem, Jay Gagner) finished their career with a 149-83 overall record, a, 82-34 Big Ten record, three NCAA Regional apperances, three straight Big Ten regular season titles and two Big Ten Tournament titles.
"This team accomplished some great things this year," said Steidl. "We started by winning the Dairy Queen Classic. Then with teams gunning for us all year we defended our regular season title in the Big Ten for a third straight year. We capped things off with a Big Ten Tournament title. It is tough to lose in the NCAA Tournament to in your senior season, but looking back on the four years I played I am extremely proud of all the accomplishments this program had while I wore the maroon and gold."
Minnesota finishes a season that saw it make history by winning both the conference regular season and tournament for the first time in school history. The Golden Gophers also won their third straight Big Ten regular season title for the first time since 1968-70. Minnesota finishes the season with a 38-23 overall record.