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 him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
At this time of the year, some sport at the U of M seems to be ending nearly every day.
The baseball team played its last game on Thursday.
The last men's tennis player lost in the NCAA tournament in Athens, Ga., on Friday.
The softball team plays Saturday night against the No. 1 seed in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday night and could be done Sunday.
You get the point. It's sad in a way: careers ending, a last loss, teammates going separate ways for the summer.
But it can be a time of hope, too.
Let's zero in one particular player: Leandro Toledo. A different sounding name -- as mine is.
Toledo is the No. 1 singles player for the Gophers and he just had himself quite a week. He competed in the 64-player singles draw. Won twice, earning him All-America status, then lost in the Round of 16.
Toledo was a first-team All-Big Ten pick after going 8-3 against conference foes. He was ranked No. 38 nationally.
His first opponent at nationals was Alex Domijan of Virginia, ranked No. 6. He was 25-1 and on a 15-match winning streak.
Toledo was the definite underdog, but he won 6-7 (4), 7-6 (12), 6-4. Next, he beat No. 38 Diego Galeano of Baylor, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4.
He became the first All-America player at the U since 2002, 14 years ago.
No. 28 Alex Sarkissian of Pepperdine ended Toledo's tournament run 7-6 (1), 6-2.
Toledo was the last of seven Big Ten players in the singles draw still standing. And before the NCAAs, he was named the ITA Central Region Player to Watch for next season when he will be a senior.
The 6-1 lefthander is from Hamburg, Germany. He turned 22 on May 5 and hits a two-handed backhand.
Iowa beat the Gophers 2-1 on Thursday in the losers' bracket of the Big Ten tournament, ending Minnesota's season.
"We left a ton of guys on base the last two days," Anderson said, "and a number of guys in scoring position."
The Gophers lost 3-2 to Michigan in their first game.
"You've got to be able to come up with the big hit. ... Everybody has pretty good pitcher and defense. You can't expect to score three runs in two games and be on the [right] side of the won/loss column."
Junior righthander Ben Meyer pitched a four-hitter against Iowa and gave up only one earned run.
"Ben deserved a better fate, no question about it. But we didn't deliver on offense and that has been out struggle all season long -- to be consistent on offense and be able to have quality at-bats.
"We've got to fix that going ahead into 2015."
The Gophers scored their only run in the fourth inning on Dan Olinger's run-scoring double in the fourth.
But the Hawkeyes tied the score in the bottom of the inning on an unearned run and won on a sacrifice fly in the eight.
"I felt great out there," Meyer said. "I had a really good feel for all three of my pitches. And I probably had the best control of my slider, I had all year."
The hitters, though, did an adequate job of getting on base. Four got hits, three got hit by pitches and two walked. The Gophers stranded nine runners, though.
"We didn't do a good enough job on offense, of executing our end of the bargain," Olinger said. "They changed speeds and hit their spots when they needed to.
"It's a battle between pitchers and hitters and they won today. ... Hitting is contagious. ... Sometimes you don't put the at-bat that you want together at the right time."
Maybe next time. Maybe next year.
Anderson was asked after the loss to Iowa about preparations for next season.
"It starts today," he said. "You've got to start thinking aahead, you've got to start planning.You've got to figure out how to make the team better."
And Anderson is optimistic he and his staff can.
"I like the young players in our program, I really do," he said. "I like the last two classes and we've got a good one coming in. There is something to work with here.
"I just hope we have a better spring next year. We can't have three [bad ones] in a row. We have to have a good one, don't we? ... We've got a lot of work to do, but we are not wilting."
Neither did the Gophers, who finished 27-24 this season.
"At the beginning of the tournament, because of the injuries we had, I said I was surprised," Anderson said. "This was probably a team that very easily could have ended up in 10th or 11th place [in the conference] based on what we went through."
Instead the Gophers tied Michigan for fourth in the Big Ten standings and were the fourth seed in the conference tournament.
'They never gave up, they never gave in. They competed," Anderson said. "They competed here [in Omaha]. We have some things we need to work on, no doubt about it."
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,
What a pitching performance that was.
Sara Groenewegen usually starts for the Gophers. But on Saturday, they needed her to come into a 1-1 game in relief.
And did she ever provide relief. The freshmen from White Rock, British Columbia, pitched 6-1/3 inning and didn't give up a hit against North Dakota State in the winners' bracket final of the Minneapolis regional at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
The Gophers finally pushed across three runs in the top of the 10th inning to take a 4-1 lead and Groenewegen moved down the Bison 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, striking out the first two batters.
That brought her game total to 13 strikeouts, a season high, including eight in a row to start her outing. She faced 20 batters; only one got on base via a walk.
Groenewegen got the win to improve her record to 14-2. She has a 2.12 ERA and has struck out 185 in 112 innings.
Next up for the Gophers, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday is Auburn in the championship game. The Tigers are coming out of the losers' bracket and have to beat Minnesota twice to advance to the super regionals.
Auburn is 41-18-1 after beating Wisconsin-Green Bay 9-1 in five innings and North Dakota 1-0 in elimination games on Saturday.
Sophomore Lexi Davis has started all three games for Auburn in the regional. She's Auburn's ace and got a little bit of a break when the Tigers jumped out to a big lead over Green Bay. She pitched only two innings in that game.
Davis is a 6-2 righthander who is 20-11 with a 2.74 ERA. She beat NDSU on a four-hitter.
The Tigers' second pitcher is sophomore Marcy Harper, 17-5, 3.74 ERA and much smaller. She's a 5-6 righthander.
Expecting Davis to start against the Gophers in Game 1. If there is a Game 2, then who knows?
Auburn also has two big sticks. Freshman Kasey Cooper had 18 homers and 77 RBI. And she's hitting .421. Junior Branndi Melero has 15 homers and 77 RBI, too. She is hitting .400.
"I thought Lexi pitched extremely well," Auburn coach Clint Myers said. "She made the pitches when she had to. She was tough all night long."
"I tried to think about it, pressure is created, it doesn't really exist," Davis said. "I just went out there, with the possibility of it being seniors last games, I wanted to do it for my team.
"Nobody wants to go home," Davis said. "That mind-set, and playing with our hearts, brought us closer. We're playing for each other."
FOUR BIG TEN TEAMS ALIVE
Washington beat Northwestern 9-0 on Saturday in five innings to end the Wildcats' season.
But the other four Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament are still playing.
The Gophers, however, are the only unbeaten team in their regional.
Co-champions Michigan and Nebraska, and Wisconin all have to beat a seeded team twice on Sunday to advance to the super regionals.
Michigan plays Arizona State at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. The Wolverines lost to ASU 4-1 and beat San Diego State 9-1.
Nebraska plays Missouri, the No. 15 seed out of 16, at noon. The Cornhuskers won twice Saturday, beating Bradley 9-0 and Kansas 2-1.
Wisconsin plays Oregon, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, at 1 p.m. The Badgers lost to Oregon 6-1 but beat Albany 8-1.
After Sunday's game, only 16 teams will still be left in the NCAA field.
A couple weeks ago -- April 29 to be exact -- North Dakota State was supposed to make a visit to Jane Sage Cowles Stadium to play the Gophers in a softball doubleheader. A combination of cold and rain scrubbed the games.
But on Saturday, the two will meet there in the postseason.
Both won on the first day of the Minneapolis regional in the 64-team NCAA tournament. The Gophers, seeded 16th in the field, won as expected. Although maybe quite this easy. They beat Wisconsin-Green Bay 10-1, scoring seven runs in the fifth inning to end the game by the eight-run rule.
The Bison pulled the shocker, upsetting Arkansas, from the mighty SEC, 5-2.
So it will be NDSU vs. the U at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with the winner advancing to the regional title game Sunday.
The Gophers won with splendid pitching and long-ball hitting.
Senior Sara Moulton gave up a single to the Phoenix's leadoff hitter, Hailey Mohrfeld, and that was it for hits.She scored, following an error and a groundout, but Moulton mowed down 12 in a row until the fifth.
She struck out eight.
"Moulton was great in the circle and kept us steady,” Gophers coach Jessica Allister said.
“I think we were all feeling some nerves and we were excited to get out there and play in front of a huge crowd," Moulton said, referring to the 1,100 in the stands. "I don’t think we’ve played at home in front of a crowd that big before. So we were a little nervous but after they scored the first run we really settled down.”
Moulton pitched her 17th complete game and, except for an unearned run, would have had her 13th shutout.
And the Gophers (42-9) started pecking away on the Phoenix.
Minnesota took a 2-1 lead in the third inning on Sam Macken's RBI single off the leg of Green Bay's pitcher and Kaitlyn Richardson's sacrifice fly.
Erica Meyer's double made it 3-1 in the fourth.
And then came the big fifth. Meyer walked with the bases-loaded to force in a run, 4-1. Sydney Fabian, the No. 9 hitter, tripled off the right-field wall, 7-1. Tyler Walker tripled to left center, 8-1. She leads the nation with eight triples.
And, finally, Macken stepped up and hit a two-run homer, 10-1.
“Sam has just had a tremendous month and she takes confident swings at pitches in the zone and she did a great job tonight," Allister said.
It was Macken who singled in the winning run when the Gophers beat Michigan 3-2 in the Big Ten tournament championship game.
“It gives me all the confidence in the world and it takes the pressure off," Moulton said when asked about the Gophers' 10-run output. "It is fun when we are scoring runs and our defense played phenomenally behind me today. I just rolled them some ground balls and they made all the plays.”
The Phoenix didn't. "They outplayed us today," Green Bay coach Jean Rivett said. "They brought all their weapons, their bats. I don’t know if we were nervous or what it was, but we are not going to make excuses. They kicked our butt."
BIG TEN ROLLS ON
The five Big Ten teams in the NCAA tournament went 5-1 (Northwestern played twice) on Friday and all are still alive in their regionals.
Northwestern beat Iona 14-4 in six innings and BYU 8-3 in elimination games. The Wildcats will play Washington in a regional title game on Saturday.
Wisconsin won 1-0 over Albany, Michigan edged San Diego State 8-7 in nine innings. Minnesota won, but we covered that.
The only Big Ten team to lose was conference co-champion Nebraska, falling to Kansas 3-1. Now the Cornhuskers are in the losers' bracket.
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