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In the Books: First hand account of the Gophers combined no-hitter

03/24/2015, 12:45pm CDT
By Lance Thonvold

Minnesota Gopher Pitcher, Lance Thonvold, recalls Gophers no-hitter

Former Blizzard member Dalton Sawyer led the charge with seven strong innings as the Gophers threw a combined no-hitter against Creighton on March 8th, which was exactly two years after Tom Windle’s no-hit bid came against Western Illinois.

The Numbers:

 

Dalton Sawyer                                           Tyler Hanson                                             Lance                Thonvold        

IP: 7.0                                                              IP: 1.0                                               IP: 1.0

H: 0                                                                   H: 0                                                    H: 0

R: 0                                                                   R: 0                                                    R: 0

BB: 4                                                                BB: 0                                                 BB: 0

SO: 5                                                                SO: 0                                                 SO: 0

NP: 99                                                             NP: 9                                                 NP: 16

The day began like any other Sunday game on the road for the Gopher baseball team; breakfast till 9:30 am in the hotel, leave for the field by 11:30. However, the schedule turned out to be the only thing ordinary about the day.

As a player on the Gopher baseball team it was quite the experience to be able take in the no-hitter first hand, and be apart of it. With each passing inning the scoreboard told one story, Sawyer’s dominance. Dalton has shown great intensity and focus while pitching for the Gophers the last three years, but no outing has ever exemplified that intensity and focus like it did against Creighton.

As the game moved through to the middle innings it became evident to the dugout and the team exactly what Dalton was doing. Everyone knew that the “no-hitter etiquette” was to be in order. Dalton was left alone like he should have been and everyone carried on like nothing special was happening, but we all knew what was taking place and so did Dalton. Dalton said, “I was aware of the no-hitter from the third inning on, the defense was behind me and although it wasn’t my intent I was effectively wild.”

However, despite Dalton’s gutsy performance he would be removed from the game. At this time of the season everyone’s arms are just starting to get back into shape and rarely will you see coaches deviate from pitch count limits until midway through the season.

As Dalton pleaded his case to be kept in the game, Sophomore Tyler Hanson was called upon to take the mound next by interim pitching coach Scott Matyas. Hanson said, “When Scott told me to start moving around I felt kind of nervous but ready to follow him up.” As Hanson took the mound he looked composed like he always does. Hanson stated, “When I got out there I was calm and comfortable as always, didn’t really think about the situation too much, just stuck with the plan and tried to use the defense and get the hitters out.” Hanson certainly did just that as he got help from shortstop Michael Handel on beautiful backhand play in the hole to preserve the no-hit bid.   

Hanson would complete the eighth inning to keep things rolling. However, this no-hitter was not going to be completed by just two gophers, the third was going to me. Scott came down to the end of the dugout where I was spitting seeds, and witnessing gopher history to inform me that I was going to have the ninth. As I scrambled to get my sunglasses off and my game face on, I headed to the bullpen to get loose. I couldn’t help but think to myself how important those last three outs were. I was honored to take the ball, but anxious at the same time to get this thing over with.

Warming up in the bullpen there is always a bit of adrenaline running through your body, but gearing up to preserve a no-hitter there was definitely a little extra. Going through my bullpen routine the only thing that was on my mind was getting those last three outs for Dalton and the team. Dalton is not only my teammate, but my roommate as well. So if there wasn’t enough pressure on me already to finish things off I knew that if I didn’t I would never hear the end of it in our apartment.

As I took the mound for the ninth inning I could feel the energy behind me. The defense had my back and so did the dugout. The energy was exhilarating and it kept me focused on the task at hand. As the first batter of the ninth stepped in all I was focused on was giving the defense a chance and throwing some competitive pitches. The first batter went to a 3-2 count, and after about five or six pitches fouled off I managed to get the batter to hit a soft liner to our second basemen.

I cruised through the second batter with a weak grounder to the second basemen. Finally, the wait was about to be over, all I had to do was get the 27th out and this game was in the books. I quickly got ahead of the batter and I had him down to a 0-2 count. Nothing would have been more exciting to end this thing with a strikeout, but that wasn’t in the cards, the final out was going to use the defense just like the whole game. As I wound up for the last pitch I could feel the anticipation in the air, just one pitch away from making gopher baseball history. Fortunately enough the batter hit the ball softly to our second basemen Chris Schaaf for his third consecutive putout of the inning, it was over! What an unforgettable experience for everyone on the team.

When I asked Dalton about the no-hitter and what was different about his attitude, he had this to say, “As far as things leading up to it I was approaching it just like any other game, I wanted to go out there and give my team a chance to win.”

Dalton certainly did that and more.

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