One pitch costs Gophers dearly in Big Ten tourney opener
May 22, 2014 — 6:32am
Shortstop Travis Maezes is not a home run hitter.
He is the leadoff hitter for Michigan. But Wednesday night, with two runners aboard, he saw a pitch he liked and turned on it.
Maezes' third home run of the season, to right center field, gave the Wolverines a 3-2 victory over the Gophers on Day 1 of the Big Ten baseball tournament in Omaha, Neb.
"Travis is one of our best clutch hitters," Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. "Big-time players make big plays when you need them the most. We needed a cluch hit and he delivered."
He sure did.
His homer came in the seventh inning. At the time, Michigan (29-27-1) was trailing 2-0 and running out of innings.
Until then, the Gophers were making all the big plays. Behind the plate, catcher Mark Tatera threw out a runner trying to steal second base in the first inning, tagged out a runner at home in the second and picked off a runner at first in the third.
"Early on we got some baserunners," Bakich said, "but we were a bit overly aggressive. We had some baserunning mistakes that cost us."
The Gophers took a 1-0 lead in the fourth, scoring on Mike Handel's RBI double. Connor Schaefbauer's single in the fifth brought in another run for a 2-0 lead.
"The difference early," Bakich said, "was Minnesota got the two our RBIs and separated the game a little bit. We were looking for find our rhythm. Credit [Alec] Crawford for settling in and doing a nice job of mixing his pitches."
Crawford was the Gophers starter. He gave up three runs on 10 hits in 6-1/3 innings.
But he kept the Wolverines scoreless until the seventh. Then two batters on the bottom of the Michigan order got on base. Jacob Lamb and Eric Jacobson, the No. 8 and 9 hitters, both singled with one out. Maezes was next.
And he hit Crawford's 105th pitch a long ways.
The Gophers (29-27-1) will play Iowa at 1 p.m. today in the losers' bracket. Loser goes home,
Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow @RomanStrib on Twitter. E-mail Roman.