Micah Coffey pumped his fist in elation while Kyle Mora shook his head in disgust.
With the score tied in the top of the 10th inning, Coffey, Minnesota’s third baseman, lined a ball toward the right-field wall to give the Golden Gophers their first lead of the game. Mora, UCLA’s only reliever Saturday, was brought in to preserve a lead but gave up the tying run in the eighth inning and the winning run two innings later.
Minnesota, the No. 14-overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament, used Coffey’s clutch hit to win its second game of the Minneapolis regional 3-2 and send UCLA (37-20) to an elimination game against Gonzaga on Sunday at noon PDT.
Minnesota’s victory followed a standout performance on the mound by UCLA starter Zach Pettway. When he exited, it looked as if he had positioned the Bruins for a victory. He pitched seven innings and gave up one run, four hits and one walk, and struck out four batters.
But Mora, a sophomore reliever, surrendered the lead in the eighth inning on a leadoff double by shortstop Terrin Vavra and a run-scoring single by catcher Eli Wilson.
Coach John Savage jumped from his seat along the dugout railing and appeared to mouth, “What?” as he saw the Bruins’ lead slip away.
He had watched the Bruins maintain a steady but slim advantage for most of the game, and it looked as if they would continue to do so when a throw from center fielder Daniel Amaral beat Vavra to the plate. But catcher Daniel Rosica couldn’t get the tag down in time and Vavra slid in safely.
Left fielder Jeremy Ydens waited about 45 minutes to score the Bruins’ first run. He singled to open the bottom of the first inning but he and everyone else had to retreat and take cover because of lightning.
The game resumed 38 minutes later with Ydens still on first base and he wasted no time getting back into the flow by stealing second.
After a groundout moved him to third base, Ydens scored on a flyout by first baseman Michael Toglia.
Minnesota responded with a home run by center fielder Alex Boxwell in the second inning and UCLA responded to the Golden Gophers (43-13) in bottom of the inning with a run-scoring groundout from right fielder Garrett Mitchell.
The rest of the game, at least until the eighth inning, was riddled with missed opportunities for both teams.
The most frustrating example for UCLA came in the seventh inning when it mounted a two-out rally to load the bases against reliever Brett Schulze. Second baseman Chase Strumpf started it with a ground-rule double, Toglia continued it with a walk and designated hitter Jake Pries was hit by a pitch to put UCLA — at the time up by one run — in position to add some insurance.
But Schulze regained his composure and struck out Amaral to end the inning.
Schulze took over for starter Patrick Fredrickson, a 6-foot-6 right-hander who was selected the Big Ten Conference’s pitcher of the year and freshman of the year. Fredrickson was undefeated coming into the game but it looked like Saturday would bring his first loss as he struggled with command.
He walked five batters — he had walked 16 coming in — and gave up four hits, but he used his seven strikeouts to escape difficult situations and keep the game close.
Frederickson turned the game over the Schulze, who turned it over to freshman Max Meyer after his one interesting inning. Meyer shut down the Bruins with one hit, one walk and six strikeouts in the game’s three remaining innings.
If UCLA beats Gonzaga (33-23) at noon, it’ll face Minnesota at 4 p.m. PDT. The Bruins would need to beat the Golden Gophers on Sunday and again Monday to advance to their first super regional since their 2013 national title season.