Gophers lose to Arizona State 6-4 to end season

Minnesota saw its 2004 season come to an end as they lost to Arizona State 6-4 in the NCAA Regionals at Goodwin Field in Fullerton, Calif. The Gophers trailed 5-0 to the No. 1 seed, but their rally came up short. They finished the season with a 38-23 mark.

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. Arizona State got on the board 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.

The Golden Gophers scored a single run in the bottom of the fourth 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.

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.

Minnesota senior Sam Steidl (Alexandria, Minn.) singled up the middle with one out in the ninth inning. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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