Luke Miller didn’t think he tagged too early. Either did his Indiana coach, Chris Lemonis.
But after Minnesota third baseman Micah Coffey asked for the ball to touch the base, the umpire agreed and the big scoreboard at Bart Kaufman Field adjusted a 5-3 sixth inning lead for Indiana back to 4-3.
The run would prove costly as the Gophers rallied for a 5-4 win over Indiana in the opening game of the Big Ten baseball tournament.
“I saw it like everyone all year long,” Lemonis said. “I thought he tagged when it was caught and scored. They weren’t even making a play at the plate, so it was a disappointing play in the game. I guess everyone has their opinion but I am not agreeing.”
“One of those situations where you recognize it and it pays off for you,” Coffey said. “It was a big out for us.”
For awhile it looked like Indiana was about to run away with the game. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, the Hoosiers enjoyed a 4-1 lead and and starting pitcher Jonathan Stiever had retired 12 of the previous 14 Minnesota batters.
Luke Pettersen then hit a seemingly innocent soft line single to right. Leadoff hitter Jordan Kozicky quickly followed with a two-run homer to left-center to make it a 4-3 game. It was Kozicky’s fourth blast of the season.
One swing of the bat swung the momentum.
“Letting them get up by three runs—we knew we had to get a couple guys on and hope we could find a gap or hit a ball out of the ballpark and lo and behold, he found a way to do that for us,” Minnesota coach John Anderson. “That turnaround that inning was huge.”
Stiever didn’t last the sixth, giving way to Tim Herrin with one out in the inning. Coffey had opened the inning bottom with a ground double down the right field line. He moved to third on a ground out to short by Hanson and then scored the game tying run when Matt Stemper knocked a sacrifice fly off Herrin.
The Gophers earned what would prove to be the winning run in the seventh in a similar fashion. Luke Pettersen hit a one out double and later scored on a soft single to center from shortstop Terrin Vavra.
Indiana failed to score over the final four innings, the only real threat the controversial tag play in the sixth. Fred Manke (2-0) earned the win, giving up just one hit in 2 1/3 innings.
“It messed up our timing a little bit,” Miller said. “He threw a little more off speed and we were getting out in front of him (Manke).”
Herrin (3-3) took the loss as he pitched the final 2 2/3 inning, giving up a run on four hits. Stiever went 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits, all earned.
Indiana now moves into the losers bracket of the double elimination tourney. The No. 6 seed Hoosiers will again play the early 10 a.m. game tomorrow, facing the loser of this afternoon’s game between No. 2 seed Michigan and No. 7 seed Northwestern.
“We’ve been up and down at times and played really well at times,” Lemonis said. “We’re king of the 10 a.m. bracket. We’re playing good baseball, that’s why I am frustrated—-that was a game that I felt like we should have had.”
Pauly Milto (6-3, 3.76 ERA) will get the Thursday morning start for Indiana.
In the bottom of the first, Gopher shortstop Terrin Vavra went opposite field with a liner just inside the left field line for a one-out double. Jonathan Stiever then got Micah Coffey on a fly out but Toby Hanson followed with a line single to center and Vavra beat the throw to the plate from Craig Dedelow to start the scoring.
Luke Miller hit his own one-out double in the second inning. He moved to third on a bunt by Matt Gorski and then scored on a looping single to right by Alex Krupa.
Craig Dedelow opens fourth inning with his team high 16th homer to right center to put Indiana up for the first time, 2-1.
It looked like the Gophers were going to tie it but Matt Stemper was thrown out at the plate on a couple terrific throws after trying to score from first on a two-out double to left by Jordan Smith. Alex Krupa had the throw out, relaying a quick toss from Luke Miller.
In the top of the fifth, Jeremy Houston walked with one out and moved to second on a wild pitch. He stole third on the very next pitch as Stemper dropped the Gilbreath pitch at the plate. Tony Butler walked and soon after stole second to put two Hoosiers in scoring position. Then Matt Lloyd drilled a two-run double, extending the lead to 4-1.
Luke Miller started the sixth by lining a high pitch from Gilbreath to left for a single. Gorski then laid down a good bunt to third and the wet conditions likely led to a one bounce throw from Coffey that Hanson couldn’t handle. Alex Krupa’s sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with one out.
With right hander catcher Ryan Fineman then up, Minnesota went to right hand reliever Fred Manke. Fineman then hit a short fly out to right center and Luke Miller appeared to scored as the throw from the outfield was off line. But Coffey appealed and the run was taken off the scoreboard, keeping the Hoosier lead at 4-3.