BATON ROUGE, La. – Kyle Knudson’s two-out RBI single plated Matt Nohelty with the winning run as second-seeded and 21st-ranked Minnesota knocked off fourth-seeded Southern 11-8 in Saturday afternoon’s elimination game at Alex Box Stadium.
“We didn’t play a great game,” Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. “We made some mistakes out there today that haven’t been characteristic of our team. It’s always important to overcome yourself sometimes, and I felt like we did that today.”
Southern rallied from five runs down to tie the game at 8-8 in the seventh inning, but relief pitcher Daniel Garcia walked Nohelty and Derek McCallum to set up Knudson’s game-winning hit.
“Today was a hard-fought battle,” Southern head coach Roger Cador said. “They fought, and fortunately for us, we were able to come back. I’m real proud of the team that they were able to come back.”
The teams combined for 19 runs on 31 hits; 11 of the runs scored in the final three innings of the game.
Nohelty led off the game with an infield single, then advanced to second on a throwing error. AJ Pettersen and Michael Kvasnicka each collected RBI singles, and Nick O’Shea put the Gophers on top 3-0 with a sacrifice fly.
“They’re amateurs, and when you have amateurs, they make some mistakes that are unappreciative,” Cador said, “but as a coach you have to look beyond that and look forward because they’re really what it is.”
Minnesota padded its lead with a run in the second when Gominsky singled, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a failed pickoff attempt.
Southern cut the deficit in half with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the second. Blake McDavid led off with a double, and one out later Michael Thomas was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners.
Gregory Whitfield and Jesse Olivar delivered back-to-back RBI singles, but Knudson put an end to the Jaguars’ rally when he threw out Whitfield attempting to steal after Toddrick Stevenson struck out on a 3-2 pitch.
The Jaguars got another run in the third when Romey Bracey was hit by a pitch and scored on James Armstrong’s RBI single, but Minnesota starting pitcher Seth Rosin induced a groundball double play and struck out Edmond Morton to escape the inning with the Gophers leading 4-3.
Minnesota added an insurance run in the fourth on three straight singles from Gominsky, Kyle Geason and Nohelty, and Southern stranded runners on the corners in the bottom half of the inning to leave the score at 5-3 Minnesota after five frames.
The Gophers had a chance to add to their lead in the sixth when Gominsky led off with a triple, but Southern starter Jarrett Maloy got a strikeout, a groundout and a flyout to get out of the inning unscathed.
However, Southern was unable to keep Minnesota off the board any longer as the Gophers broke through for three runs in the seventh to extend their lead to 8-3. Two singles and a hit batter loaded the bases, Eric Decker brought a run home with a groundout, and Gominsky delivered his fourth hit of the game, a two-run double.
“I just tried to go out there and not do too much,” Gominsky said. “I got some good pitches to hit and was able to make the most of them.”
But the Jaguars broke through with five seventh-inning runs to tie the game at 8-8. Bracey singled with one out, Victor Franklin was hit by a pitch, and Armstrong reached on an error to load the bases.
Blake McDavid brought in two runs with a single, Morton doubled in a run, McDavid came home on a wild pitch, and Michael Thomas brought in the tying run with a single.
“We knew that we had it in us to fight and come back,” Thomas said. “We knew that if we got a base runner on, we could create base runners and score runs.”
Neither starting pitcher factored in the decision. Maloy allowed five runs on 11 hits with one walk and three strikeouts in 6.0 innings. Rosin left the game with an 8-4 lead after allowed four runs on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
Minnesota took advantage of a pair of walks to plate the eventual winning-run in the eighth, but the Gophers had to fight off another Southern rally to hang on for the win.
Franklin walked and Armstrong singled to put the potential go-ahead runner on base with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Minnesota turned the ball over to Scott Matyas out of the bullpen. Matyas struck out McDavid for the second out, and Morton’s drive to the gap in left-center was chased down by Gominsky to end the threat.
The Gophers added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth with the help of a Southern error. Decker reached on an error leading off the inning, advanced to second on Gominsky’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Nohelty’s two-out RBI single. Nohelty stole second base and scored on Pettersen’s RBI single to extend Minnesota’s lead to 11-8.
Gominsky finished the game 4-for-4 with a pair of runs, two RBI and a steal. Nohelty and Pettersen went 3-for-5 as the first two hitters in the Minnesota lineup, and six Gophers had multi-hit games.
Minnesota reliever Scott Fern got the win in relief despite allowing a pair of runs on five hits in 1.0 inning. Garcia took the loss after allowing four runs on four hits in 2.0 innings.
Olivar went 3-for-5 with one RBI, while McDavid went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, and Armstrong and Thomas both added two hits for the Jaguars.
Southern completes the 2009 season with an overall record of 30-17, while Minnesota advances to take on the loser of Saturday night’s Baylor vs. LSU game in an elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m.