Gophers come back to eliminate Hoosiers, 9-8

Eduardo Estrada’s only other home run this year came in his second at-bat of the season.

The Hoosiers won’t forget his second.

The light-hitting Minnesota outfielder delivered a three-run, pinch-hit home run to lift the No. 3 Golden Gophers to a 9-8 victory over No. 6 Indiana, eliminating the Hoosiers from the Big Ten Tournament in come-from-behind fashion.

A packed crowd at Bart Kaufman Field sat in stunned silence as Estrada rounded the bases and kept Minnesota’s postseason alive. Meanwhile, IU was left to wrestle with a late-game collapse that torpedoed an otherwise fine night of baseball.

“Tough game,” IU coach Chris Lemonis said. “We got our hearts pulled out right there late in the game. I thought we did a lot of good things. Tip your hat to Minnesota for never quitting and playing to the last out. That’s the game of baseball sometimes.”

Indeed it can be a cruel and quirky game, as IU was reminded Friday.

The Hoosiers received a strong outing from freshman spot starter Andrew Saalfrank and a big offensive night from Matt Lloyd, who went 4-for-4 with three RBIs, including his 11th home run of the season.

Indiana once led by as many as six runs and collected 12 total hits — but none of those equaled the importance of Estrada’s blast in the eighth.

IU had led all night until Estrada’s home run off IU reliever Kade Kryzsko, which came during a five-run inning for Minnesota. The Gophers scored their runs in bunches, also plating four in the bottom of the sixth.

“You’re excited early in the game to get a lead,” IU’s Tony Butler said. “That’s always the main objective. You never think the game’s over, but when you get a lead like that — we had more opportunities to score more runs and they kept chipping away.”

It was the second win of the day for Minnesota, who lost to Northwestern and fell into the loser’s bracket with IU. The Gophers will face No. 5 Iowa on Saturday at 10 a.m.

For the Hoosiers, it was a disappointing night by their bullpen, which had been showing signs of improvement during the past couple weeks after a largely inconsistent run through the regular season.

That inconsistency returned on Friday.

“We’ve been good,” Lemonis said of his relievers. “The stuff was good. We just missed on a couple pitches. They got a couple hits in there, we gave up the big one late and that was obviously a tough one. Those guys have pitched really well of late, too. But obviously we didn’t pitch good enough tonight.”

Making his second spot start in the past week and a half, Saalfrank rose to the occasion once again. Last week, he gave IU a nice outing in an upset of No. 2 Louisville.

On Friday, with the Hoosiers facing elimination from the conference tournament, Saalfrank was even better.

The left-handed freshman worked five innings plus three batters, charged with allowing three runs on three hits. Although he walked five, he struck out four and held the Gophers to only one hit through five innings.

By the sixth, it was clear that Saalfrank was out of gas. He allowed a leadoff double to Jordan Kozicky, who scored on Terrin Vavra’s single to right. Saalfrank then walked Micah Coffey on five pitches before getting the hook from coach Chris Lemonis.

Minnesota plated three more runs on reliever Tim Herrin’s watch in the sixth, including a two-run double by Jordan Smith and a single to left by Luke Pettersen.

“In tournament play, you get greedy,” Lemonis said. “I probably got greedy going out there (with Saalfrank) for the third time through the lineup. He’s throwing a one-hitter. Man, they hadn’t hit many hard-hit balls and it’s a really good offensive team.”

Indiana supplied early support, plating three runs as Minnesota’s Toby Anderson struggled with his command in the third inning. Anderson issued back-to-back walks to start the inning before Butler dropped a perfect bunt to load the bases.

Lloyd and Craig Dedelow sandwiched RBI sacrifice flies around a run-scoring single by Luke Miller.

In the fifth, some aggressive baserunning from Butler allowed him to score from second on Lloyd’s single to right field. Moments later, Lloyd came around to score on a single by Dedelow that gave IU a 5-0 lead.

An inning later, Jeremy Houston extended that advantage to six runs when he hit his second homer of the year, a solo shot to centerfield.

Umpires initially ruled it a double, but changed the call to a home run after seeing that the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced off a television camera platform before falling back onto the field.

IU added runs across the next two innings, getting a solo home run from Lloyd in the seventh and an RBI double from Fineman in the top of the eighth.

Then came the bottom half, the big inning Minnesota needed — and the blast that no one saw coming.

Indiana, which is expected to make the NCAA Tournament, will await their fate in Monday’s selection show.

“It’s just tough when you see your kids put that much effort and play that hard,” Lemonis said.

9 comments

  1. That game was OVER. The Hoosiers had a 6-0 lead in a game that wasn’t as close as the score would leave you to believe. It was dominant.

    I suppose that is the problem/joy of baseball. One team can overwhelm the other for 75% of the game and still lose.

    Maybe that’s why I rarely watch baseball.

  2. To me IU lacks in bullpen department. (trouble holding leads) in the very few games I watched on tv.

  3. t, that has been one of the biggest issues all year. The bullpen isn’t very deep so some of these guys have been over worked during the year. In the beginning of the year it was the bats that struggled lately it has been the arms out of the bullpen. Bullpen needs to figure it out because that is what will win you tourney games.

  4. Ditto all the above + it’s college BB which is enjoyable to watch on TV. I do enjoy Lemonis philosophy and young HOOSIERS style of play. It is no doubt attracting fans and quality recruits.

  5. This team would be awesome with just a little bullpen help. I had no hope after Smith left but this is a fun team to watch and great facility. Future looks bright

  6. A packed crowd at Bart Kaufman Field

    Do you have the attendance numbers? Just curious to how many fans it takes to pack Kaufman.

    Being the host site for the 8-team tournament likely helps boost attendance. I doubt many students attend baseball games even when still on campus.

    I wonder how many could be “packed” into Victory Field if Indy were to host the tournament before all the race weekend festivities?

  7. H4H, the Bart holds about 2,500 not counting the lawn seating and outside the park seating. When school is in session close to 50-60% of the fans are students and can become a very vocal crowd. IU baseball games are a real treat to go to especially during the school year and the ticket is inexpensive. We also go to IU tennis matches and there could be 50+ students of about 75 people that show up. I do credit the student population and their support of non-revenue sports.

    1. To add to that, if you haven’t been to an IU soccer game with the students there, you are missing one of the best atmospheres on campus. I highly suggest getting to Armstrong to watch a match. Crowd is generally at capacity and loud.

  8. iuhoosier1992-

    Thanks for your response….Maybe one day I’ll get down to Bloomington to take in something other than basketball.
    To my surprise, I tuned into a women’s college softball super regional contest on ESPN a few nights ago and really got into it. It was a game between Ole Miss and UCLA…Ole Miss was there for the first time and battled the hell out of the dynasty team in women’s softball. Anyway, it was a ton of fun.

    Back to IU baseball…I was rather shocked to see that IU Baseball has the second best average attendance of all BIG schools(only second to Nebraska). Maybe that was part of the reason Indiana was given a rare opportunity to host the BIG tournament(almost always in Omaha).

    Take care.

Comments are closed.