Minnesota asserts offensive dominance in NCAA Tournament opener

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Senior catcher Christ Conley drove home the Griffs’ lone run in a 10-1 defeat at a soldout Siebert Field. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

By Marshall Haim

Sports Editor

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota came into the NCAA Tournament hot winning their last nine games and 26 of their last 30. Canisius wasn’t able to buck that trend Friday night as the Golden Gophers leaped out to an early 5-0 lead in the second inning, cruising to a 10-1 win in front of record 2,291 at Siebert Field.

After a scoreless first inning, Minnesota used a five-run second inning to take the lead, which they would never relinquish. The Golden Gophers had nine batters step up to the plate mustering five hits off Griffs starter J.P. Stevenson.

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J.P. Stevenson became just the fourth player in Canisius program history to throw at least 300 innings over a career. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

Despite being handed the loss, Stevenson became the fourth Canisius player to log 300 innings while wearing the Blue and Gold. The New Glasgow, P.E.I. native is the first Griffs pitcher to record at least 300 innings while at Canisius since fellow Canadian Devon Stewart do so in 2015.

Immediately following the five-run second inning, senior catcher Christ Conley hit an RBI double to right field that scored John Conti, trying to create a rally for the Griffs. Conti was the lone Canisius player with multiple hits.

The four-run lead didn’t last long for Minnesota as Cole McDevitt took Stevenson deep in the bottom half of the third inning with the aid of the wind blowing in from left-center field. The ball hooked around the right field foul pole out of the reach of right fielder Canice Ejoh. The home run was the ninth of the year for the McDevitt.

The Golden Gophers would add a run in the fourth inning on an RBI double before plating three more in the next frame.

Minnesota ace Reggie Meyer admitted that he didn’t have his best stuff, but it was good enough to stymie the Griffs lineup. The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior tossed eight innings for the Golden Gophers, increasing his season record to 8-3. He allowed one run on five hits while walking one and fanning six.

The Golden Gophers are now 25-3 this season when either Meyer or freshman Patrick Fredrickson, Minnesota’s No. 2 starter, gets the nod on the hill. Minnesota has now won 22 of the last 23 games when either their No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher earns the start.

Offensively, every starter for Minnesota had at least one hit in the victory. Junior shortstop Terrin Vavra was 3-for-5 with a triple and three RBIs. Toby Hanson, who has been overcoming a wrist surgery and back issues, was 3-for-4 with two doubles and while scoring twice.

Vavra, according to MLB Pipeline, is the 129th top prospect in the upcoming MLB Draft that will begin Monday.

“Vavra is the best prospect in [his] family and is one of the top shortstops available in this year’s draft,” his biography on MLB Pipeline states. “[A] smooth left-handed swing and an advanced approach at the plate, he makes contact with ease.”

With the win, Minnesota will face second-seeded UCLA tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. local time in the winner’s bracket.

The Bruins scored four runs in the ninth inning to defeat No. 3 Gonzaga, 6-5. The Zags led in the sixth inning, 4-0, before the Bruins roared back.

Minnesota and UCLA already played this season way back in March in the Dairy Queen Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge at U.S. Bank Stadium here in Minneapolis. UCLA beat Minnesota, 6-1, despite only having three hits.

Canisius will battle with fellow Jesuit school, Gonzaga, tomorrow afternoon in the elimination bracket. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. local time. It will be the first time Canisius will play Gonzaga or any West Coast Conference (WCC) team.

The weather forecast as of 11:30 p.m. calls for a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms with a high hovering around 65 degrees. In the scenario of postponements, the games originally scheduled for Saturday would then be moved to Sunday with the times remaining the same.

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