The No. 11-ranked Gopher Baseball team scraped across three early runs against Illinois, and Reggie Meyer made sure that was all they needed as he tossed a complete game shutout for the 3-0 win on day two of the Big Ten Tournament at T.D. Ameritrade Park.
No. 11 Minnesota (39-13) will await the victor of Friday’s Michigan/Ohio State elimination game for their semifinal game on Saturday morning.
Meyer (7-3) allowed just three hits, including one in the first inning before his defense turned the first of two double plays in the game to escape trouble. Luke Pettersen and Ben Mezzenga led off the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles. After a fielder’s choice took Mezzenga off the base path, Eli Wilson singled home a run, and later in the inning, Cole McDevitt tacked on another run.
The All-Big Ten Second Team selection Meyer did not need any more insurance as he collected a career-high eight strikeouts while walking just one in a 106-pitch effort. The Maroon & Gold got him some in the fifth when Toby Hanson laid down a bunt leading off the inning. It trailed all the way down the third base line and bounced off the bag as Hanson charged into second with a bunt double. Pettersen followed with a bunt single of his own, and the Gophers would eventually tack on a run on a groundball off the bat of Terrin Vavra.
“I try not to look at the scoreboard and just pretend it’s 0-0 every inning,” said Meyer after the game. “It’s kind of just [catcher Eli Wilson] and I playing catch. Towards the end of the game, I don’t try to change much. Our defense has been outstanding all year, so I just throw strikes and let them hit it at our defense.”
Minnesota had a chance to add more when Riley Smith walked and stole second in the seventh, attempting to score on Vavra’s single, but Illinois (32-19) got a perfect relay from right fielder Jack Yalowitz to catcher Jeff Korte to tag him out and end the inning. Andy Fisher (6-3) allowed nine hits and three Gopher runs, but struck out nine in 7.0 innings of work in taking the tough-luck loss for the Illini.
“Their pitcher did an outstanding job,” said head coach John Anderson after the game. “With our left-handed line-up, it’s not a good match-up, but our guys did enough to get on base. Our guys did an excellent job of execution of the short game to get some runs on the board.
Ben Troike singled leading off the ninth against Meyer, but the Gophers turned their second double play, this time off the bat of Big Ten Player of the Year Bren Spillane, to erase the threat. Meyer then got his 11th ground ball out of the game to end it and earn his shutout.
“I said it last night, and I’ll say it again: We made some outstanding defensive plays,” said Anderson after the game. “The double play ball was not an easy play. We have an experienced third baseman who stepped back to get the right hop instead of rushing the play. If we don’t make those plays, all of a sudden, you have trouble in the ninth.”
“It’s a confidence boost for the whole team. Now, we have a lot of pitchers ready to go for the rest of the weekend.” – Reggie Meyer on the confidence boost provided after his performance
The 10 p.m. first pitch was the latest in the history of T.D. Ameritrade Park … Reggie Meyer’s complete game was the first of his career, and it was the first complete-game shutout for a Gopher since D.J. Snelten against Ohio State on April 7, 2013 … the last Minnesota pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game at all was Ben Meyer, the brother of Reggie, against Michigan on April 25, 2015.
The top-seeded Gophers will enjoy a day off from competition as they await Saturday morning’s semifinal match-up at 9 a.m. Ohio State and Michigan will compete in the elimination bracket for the right to play Minnesota at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
(info courtesy of Gopher Sports)