OMAHA – The Gophers will face an opponent almost as hot as they are in the Big Ten baseball tournament championship game.
No. 11 Minnesota used a six-run sixth inning to beat Ohio State 8-1 Saturday in the semifinals at T.D. Ameritrade Park, the top-seeded Gophers’ eighth consecutive victory.
The Gophers (40-13) will face Purdue at 1 p.m. Sunday for the Big Ten’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament; Minnesota is a cinch for an at-large berth with a loss.
The Gophers are trying to become the first Big Ten team since Indiana in 2014 to win the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles in the same year. They will be going for their 10th conference tournament championship under coach John Anderson and first since 2010.
The Gophers are 24-3 in their past 27 games, including 18-8 and 22-7 victories at Purdue in mid-April. But the second-seeded Boilermakers (37-18) are 22-3 since then.
Saturday, Patrick Fredrickson gave up a home run to the Buckeyes’ Tyler Cowles off the left-field foul pole in the first inning, but the 6-6 Gophers freshman righthander allowed only one more hit over six innings.
The Gophers tied the score in the fourth inning on Toby Hanson’s sacrifice fly, and then broke the game open two innings later.
“The formula once again with Patrick Fredrickson on the mound was for him to pound the zone with three pitches and for us to play defense behind him,” Anderson said. “He gave up the home run, but he … then got back to doing his thing.
“Before the six-run inning, I got the guys together in the dugout and said we were trying too hard. We didn’t have a good approach at the plate the first half of the game.”
Jordan Kozicky began the big rally with a walk, and Hanson gave the Gophers a lead with a triple to center before he scored on Luke Pettersen’s RBI single. After two walks loaded the bases, Cole McDevitt hit a two-run single, and Kozicky followed with another two-run single.
“He [Anderson] told us to calm down, relax a bit, and get back to having a plan,” Hanson said. “After that, we took a deep breath and got back to being us. We got some big hits and just kept on going.”
Jackson Rose and Jeff Fasching combined to throw three shutout innings of relief. Fredrickson, the Big Ten Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, improved to 9-0.
“I try and have the same attitude every start,” he said. “I try and remind myself that it’s just another game, and you have to come in with the same intensity and attitude and just focus on executing pitches and not worry about what’s going on outside of baseball. These accolades don’t mean much to me at all. I’m just trying to help my team win.”
Purdue 11, Illinois 5: Nick Dalesandro had two hits and scored three runs as the Boilermakers rallied from three runs down vs. the Illini.