Minnesota’s path to its first College World Series appearance since 1977 became a little more difficult with Friday’s 8-1 loss to Oregon State in the opener of the best-of-3 Corvallis Super Regional.
But Golden Gophers coach John Anderson has plenty of belief his squad can rebound and give the No. 3-seeded Beavers a better game on Saturday.
“These guys have shown some resiliency and toughness all year,” Anderson said. “They’ve come back. I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Minnesota, champions of the Big Ten, have lost back-to-back games just three times this season — the last time was March 9-10 against Creighton — in posting a 44-14 record.
They have followed up their last eight defeats with wins.
However, if they don’t make it nine straight, the season will come to an end.
“The guys have been great at resetting and preparing for the next day and being able to put the loss behind them and move on,” Anderson said. “They’ve done it all year and that’s my message to them. They’ve shown a lot of grit and a lot of passion and they make a strong commitment to preparation.
“We’ve got to be ready to play the first pitch of the first inning (Saturday) and see if we can get some momentum going back on our side.”
Friday’s first inning was a rough one for the Gophers. After getting the first two outs of the bottom of the first, starter Reggie Meyer got in some trouble. First Nick Madrigal singled, then Trevor Larnach and Adley Rutschman crushed home runs for a quick 3-0 lead.
“I think it was an uphill climb for us after it was 3-0 for us against a great pitcher,” Anderson said, alluding to Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich.
“He does a great job commanding the fastball in the bottom of the zone in and out and he pitched outstanding. Give him the lead like that in their ballpark and we had an uphill climb.”
Down 4-0, the Gophers put a rally together with a Jordan Kozicky leadoff single and a one-out sacrifice bunt that moved Kozicky to second.
Ben Mezzenga singled to left but Kozicky was held at third to put runners on the corners with two outs.
Terrin Vavra drove one deep to right but his bid for extra bases was denied by Trevior Larnach, who pulled in the drive to end the frame and keep the Gophers scoreless.
“He squared one up in the gap and he made a great play out there,” Anderson said. “If that goes in there it’s back to a 4-2 game and maybe we can get back in the thing and make a more competitive game of it.”
Added Vavra: “We were just trying to answer there. We were trying to put some runs on the board. Give the guy credit, he made a great play. Sometimes that happens.”
Toby Hanson’s solo homer to lead off the eighth started what could have been a big inning. But after a hit batter and walk, Heimlich got a fielder’s choice and a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat,
“Obviously it was a tough game today,” Hanson said. “The good news is it is the best two of three. (Saturday’s) a new day and we’re going to get back to work with the same mentality as we have all year and just keep on playing our game.
“They are a good team but we are too. We’re looking forward to another opportunity to take the field and give it our best.”