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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 25 2012

Big eighth inning rallies Gophers over Bison in front of school record crowd

FARGO – A Summit League baseball championship is the ultimate goal, of course, for North Dakota State. But the distinction of being the undisputed, unabashed tri-state Division I king was in its grasp and it would have sounded good.

Instead, the Bison heard a thud in an odd eighth inning and the University of Minnesota took an 11-7 victory before a school-record 1,781 fans at Newman Outdoor Field. It prevented NDSU from going 12-0 against the Gophers, North Dakota and South Dakota State.

The Bison (29-10) have put together a lot of memorable innings this season. The eighth on Wednesday was not one of them.

“I don’t think they earned it, we pretty much gave it to them,” said Bison left fielder Nick Colwell. “We’ll bounce back. That’s baseball. You’re rolling and rolling and then you hit a rut.”

The rut came when Minnesota took advantage of a rarely called infraction: catcher’s interference, when a Gophers hitter’s bat hit NDSU catcher Michael Leach’s glove on a swing. It happened three times in the game and twice in the eighth inning, with the second one being called on a routine double play ground ball to shortstop Max Casper that would have gotten the Bison out of the inning.

Instead, the Gophers scored six more runs – seven in all in the inning – to take a 10-6 lead.

“You can handle one, but the second and third are unacceptable,” said Bison head coach Tod Brown. “He just got too close. They have long swings and you have to adjust.”

It was a mid-week, nonconference game, so both teams were not at full throttle. Both combined to use 10 pitchers.

It doesn’t mean winning took a back seat. The big Gophers uprising erased a mostly dominant first seven innings for NDSU.

“We’ve struggled all year putting together a big inning,” said Minnesota head coach John Anderson, whose team improved to 24-19, “so that was a good sign tonight.”

All the signs early pointed to NDSU.

Kirk Kenneally’s two-run single made it 4-2 in the bottom of the third inning. Another run came home when the Gophers had Nick Anderson dead at third base on a pickoff, but the throw went off the glove of third baseman Kyle Geason and into left field, allowing Anderson to score.

One inning later, Colwell’s single gave the Bison a 6-2 advantage.

It didn’t last. It would have been the first time in school history NDSU had beaten all three without a loss. It also would have met a team goal of getting to 30 wins before 10 losses.

“It’s definitely good to beat the guys around you,” Colwell said.

M 020 010 071–11 13 3

NDSU 104 100 010– 7 13 4

Jess, Klabunde (3), Windle (6), Ghelfi (8) and Halloran. Kliniske, Hermes (4), Heck (7), Anderson (8), Kingsley (8), Jaunich (9) and Leach. W—Windle (3-3). L—Anderson (2-1).

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia

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