BATON ROUGE -- Minnesota second baseman Derek McCallum collected four hits and drove in seven runs to lift the Golden Gophers past Baylor, 15-12, and eliminate the Bears from the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional Sunday afternoon in Alex Box Stadium.
Minnesota (40-18) will face No. 2 LSU (48-16) at 6 p.m. (CDT) Sunday night. If the Gophers defeat LSU in the night cap, the teams will meet again Monday night at 6 p.m. to decide who advances to the NCAA Super Regional.
Baylor (30-26) simply had no answer for McCallum, who sprayed the ball all over the field Sunday afternoon. All four of the junior’s hits went for extra bases as the All-America candidate notched three doubles and connected on his 18th homer of the season.
Shortstop AJ Pettersen also chipped in with three hits and two RBI, and right fielder Michael Kvasnicka and catcher Kyle Knudson each drove in two runs apiece.
Minnesota starter Chancy Handran (8-3) earned the victory. The right-hander hurled eight innings, surrendering nine earned runs on 11 hits and striking out seven. Baylor reliever Reed Woytek (1-1) was charged with the loss after giving up two runs in the seventh inning.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. “We were down 5-2, and it did not look like there was much hope, and we knew we had to get a big inning to get back into it. Of course, (Derek) McCallum and (Michael) Kvasnicka got a couple of big hits for us, and we were able to put up some big, crooked numbers in the last three innings.
“That has been the nature of the team the whole year. They don’t give up. They fight, and they compete.”
McCallum put the Golden Gophers ahead early, 2-0, with a two-run blast over the right field wall in the top of the first, but Baylor tied it up in the bottom of the frame when left fielder Ben Booker singled in two runs.
The Bears took a 5-2 advantage with a three-run fourth. After back-to-back base hits by first baseman Dan Evatt and Booker, center fielder Don Lambert drove in two on an RBI single. Catcher Gregg Glime then followed with a double into the gap in right center to bring home Lambert.
Meanwhile, Baylor starter Jon Ringenberg settled in nicely after giving up the early homer to McCallum. The right-hander kept Minnesota off the scoreboard in the next five innings and struck out eight through six frames.
However, the Gophers got to Ringenberg in the seventh and tied the game with three runs off three hits. Following an RBI double by McCallum, Kvasnicka launched a two-run shot to right center to knot it up at 5-5.
Minnesota took control of the game with a five-run eighth inning to go up, 10-5. With the bases loaded and one out, Pettersen singled in a run, and McCallum followed with a double off the center field wall to plate two more.
Knudson capped off the big inning in the next at-bat with a two-run single to left.
The Gophers added five more runs in the ninth to take a commanding 15-5 advantage. McCallum highlighted the frame with another RBI double, his third of the game.
Baylor rallied late with seven runs in the bottom of the ninth, but Minnesota left-hander Luke Rasmussen retired three of the four batters he faced to close out the game and preserve the victory.
Minnesota head coach John Anderson
“I’m proud of our kids. We were down 5-2 and it did not look like there was much hope and we knew we had to get a big inning to get back into it, and of course (Derek) McCallum and (Michael) Kvasnicka got a couple of big hits for us and we were able to put up some big, crooked numbers the last three innings. That has been the nature of the team the whole year. They don’t give up, they fight and they compete. We have won a lot of games this year in the last three innings. We have kept the game in balance and been able to keep it close. I’m proud of our kids, I am proud of our competitiveness. It would have been easy to quit and pack it in but that has been t heir nature all year long to not do that so it did not surprise me.”
On playing LSU in the championship round
“Well first of all we trust all of our kids. We put the kids out there and give them an opportunity here and put them in a position where hopefully they can keep us in the ballgame. It is a big uphill battle, there is no question about it and there is no secret what we have ahead of us here. We are playing a great ballclub in their home ballpark and we have to beat them twice. It is a monumental task but it is a lot better than having your season being over right now. We are excited we get to continue to play. This has been a very special group.”
MINNESOTA PLAYER QUOTES
P Chauncy Handran
On his performance after the fourth inning ...
“Coming into the game I had some pre-game jitters. My pitches started to come in around the fourth and fifth inning. After that I really settled down and got use to the weather. For then on I was able to do my thing.”
On how he felt pitching in the heat ...
“It starts with our trainer. He does an unbelievable job for us. I went out there and after a couple of innings I felt very water logged like I had to much water in me. After that I kept drinking water and had an ice towel on around my neck. Early in the fourth or fifth inning I felt very present and cool. That’s when I went out and started throwing very well.”
BAYLOR HEAD COACH STEVE SMITH
“Let me say first how well I think this NCAA Regional has been done. We’ve enjoyed being here. It’s been first class with everything that’s been done. It takes a lot of people to pull one of these off, and LSU has done a great job with it. As for the game today, I thought that we saw a really great effort out of the opposing starting pitcher. We finally got him in the ninth, but by that time they had put a bunch of runs on the board. I was proud of our guys. I ran all of the seniors out there and none of them wanted to make an out, so that got us going a little bit and at least left a good taste in their mouths. I think Jon Ringenberg did a great job for us. I thought this was a game that needed to be played the way that Minnesota played it. Your pitcher was going to do something out of the ordinary, which their guy did, because neither one of us wanted to go very deep in the bullpen knowing you still have two games to play if you want to win this thing. That’s what was so special about what their guy did. The other thing is that you have to score some runs to do that. We just didn’t score enough runs.”
BAYLOR PLAYER QUOTES
P Jon Rigenberg
On his pitching performance ...
“In the first inning I think I missed some spots. I was trying to locate my pitches, but I left a few of them up. They’re a good hitting team; they took advantage of mistakes and that first inning I left one up and he took advantage of it. I think after that first inning I kind of settled down and later on I was able to locate my pitches better.”
On what was working well for him ...
“My change-up is definitely my best pitch and I’ve relied on that this entire year. I think today I was locating it well, and most of the time I was keeping it down. If I leave it up, they’ll hit it and they took advantage of a couple of them I left up.”
LF Ben Booker
On the offensive production today ...
“I knew today for our pitching we didn’t want to get too far into our bullpen, so pregame Coach Johnson told us to bring our bats and score a lot of runs, and that’s what we tried to do. In the end we fell short and it just wasn’t enough today.”
On the ninth inning rally ...
“You can’t stop believing. We got up there and got a lead-off double and no one wanted to get out. Everyone has this don’t-give-up attitude and I think it showed, but we just came up short. It was good when Coach Smith put all the seniors in and seeing some of those guys get hits for their last at-bat. That just showed how competitive this team is.”