Story by Jack Sinclair
Both Minneapolis and Boston were frozen in ice cold temperatures, but the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Northeastern Huskies were able to stay warm in Fort Myers Florida as they faced off in a non-conference matchup to replace the Huskies’ exhibition game with the Red Sox.
The Golden Gophers entered the game carrying a four-game losing streak, while the Huskies were coming off of a big 8-1 win against Penn State the weekend prior. Unlike the two teams’ homes, the weather was absolutely perfect for baseball as the game began.
Despite the perfect weather, the Huskies got off to a rough start. Redshirt sophomore starter Cam Schlittler gave up a single to Andrew Wilhite in the second at bat of the game. An error by Justin Bosland at first base allowed Wilhite to move into scoring position. Schlittler struck his next man out, but Joe Hauser smacked a two-out single into the outfield to drive the run home. It wasn’t all bad for the Huskies, as Schlittler closed the inning with his 100th collegiate strikeout.
Minnesota starter Sam Ireland brought his best stuff to the mound, as he dominated the Huskies for seven and a third innings. The Huskies managed to get five hits off of Ireland, but the Golden Gophers starter managed to avoid pitching into jams. The Huskies were clearly stymied by Ireland’s stuff, as they would strikeout 10 times, compared to only drawing two walks. The bats simply weren’t there for Northeastern, but for as long as Schlittler was on the mound, it seemed like they had a chance.
The redshirt sophomore starter for Northeastern found himself in a bit of trouble again in the fourth inning. A throwing error by second baseman Max Viera allowed Ronald Sweeney to reach base. Sweeney promptly stole second, then advanced to third on a groundout. Boston Merila managed to hit one long enough to give Sweeney time to tag up, and the Golden Gophers had their second unearned run against Schlittler.
Nothing was going any better for the Huskies on the other side of the ball. Through seven innings, they had stranded nine runners on the basepaths, including a man on third in the fifth. Ireland outlasted Schlittler, as Owen Langan relieved the starter in the bottom of the seventh.
Northeastern did what the British couldn’t in 800 years, and they figured out Ireland. Back to back hits by Mike Sirota and Corey DiLoreto drove the Minnesota starter back into his dugout with runners on the corners. Will Semb stepped in to relieve Ireland, and immediately struck out Bosland. Luke Beckstein came up big for the Huskies, and singled to score Sirota and cut the Golden Gophers lead in half. Semb ended the party before it could really even get started, as he struck out Jack Thorbahn looking to close the top of the eighth.
Langan stayed out for the bottom of the eighth, and Minnesota ambushed him right off the bat. A double and a balk put a runner on third with no outs set the stage for Chase Stanke, who doubled down the right field line to make the score 3-1. Langan would escape further damage by inducing a few pop outs to give the Huskies one last chance to win.
Semb completely denied the Huskies of that chance. The lone blemish on his closing inning was a walk earned by Jeff Costello. Aside from that, Semb was perfect, forcing three easy ground outs to secure the win for his team.
The Huskies simply were not efficient enough at the plate on Friday. It took them much too long to figure out Ireland to be effective, and did not do nearly enough to take advantage of their six hits. Two of Minnesota’s three runs came off of errors, showing a lack of discipline on the defensive side of the ball as well. Friday’s loss highlighted a few big issues with the Huskies roster early in the season, but the fortunate part of the long college baseball season is that there is plenty of time to figure out some solutions.
A positive take away from the loss is that the Huskies continued to be aggressive on the basepaths. Northeastern stole five bases Friday,
The Huskies are back at it on Saturday, as they take on Marshall University at noon for a doubleheader in the Snowbird Baseball Classic.