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Matyas sets Big Ten saves record in weekend sweep

Matyas sets Big Ten saves record in weekend sweep
Image by Joseph Michaud-Scorza, Daily File Photo

Closer Scott Matyas set the career saves record for the Big Ten over the weekend in a Gophers sweep of Michigan.

Minnesota (19-18 overall, 11-7 Big Ten) is now on tear in which it has won eight of its last nine conference games, a streak which has vaulted the team two second in the Big Ten standings.

Matyas earned saves Saturday and Sunday, the 33rd and 34th career. SaturdayâÄôs save was one of the most unusual of the seniorâÄôs career.

Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning Matyas wasnâÄôt even warming up because the Gophers lead 11-4.

Billy Soule struggled through the ninth. With two outs and two runs already in, Soule walked a batter and gave up back-to-back singles, which plated two more runs thanks in part to a Trip Schultz throwing error.

DJ Snelten came in to try to douse the flames of the WolverinesâÄô rally. He gave up a hit to the first batter he faced, which allowed two more to cross the dish and caused head coach John Anderson to once again make a call out to his bullpen.

In trotted Matyas with a one-run lead with the win suddenly in jeopardy. Matyas got the first batter he faced to ground in to a fielderâÄôs choice on one pitch, notching his 33rd career save and establishing a new Big Ten record for career saves in the process.  

SundayâÄôs save was more conventional. He pitched the final two frames in perfect fashion to preserve MinnesotaâÄôs 6-2 win. He escaped an eighth inning jam not of his own doing and didnâÄôt allow either inherited to score.

On the first pitch he got a double play and then used just one more pitch to record the final out of the eighth on a fly ball to right. He then got through the ninth unscathed and earned the save because when he entered, Michigan had the potential tying run in the on-deck circle.

In the two tensest innings on the weekend,   Matyas used three pitches to record four outs, epitomizing efficiency.

The save in FridayâÄôs 4-1 win went to freshman standout Tom Windle. After TJ Oakes, who earned the win, pitched 6.2 innings of one-run ball, Windle marched on in relief.

He threw the final 2.1 innings, allowing only one hit the notch his first career save.

While the relief staff continued to show its mettle, first baseman Nick OâÄôShea may have finally untracked the sluggish offense.

OâÄôShea earned Big Ten co-Player of the Week after he batted .636 (7-for-11) in the series, clubbing three home runs on the weekend. He chipped in six RBI and scored five runs.

His two-run homer Friday provided cushion, while his deep ball Saturday was merely a footnote in the GophersâÄô offensive explosion.

OâÄôShea went 4-for-5 Saturday, Justin Gominsky went 4-for-6 and five of their teammates also recorded multi-hit games.

The team as a whole batted .422 and drew five walks in the middle game of the series sweep. Struggling to this point offensively, Minnesota has had several breakout games like SaturdayâÄôs this year, only to revert back to listless offensive ways.

Riding the momentum of the 11-run outburst and second consecutive Big Ten road sweep, the Gophers will look to keep the offense rolling next weekend on the road at Penn State. As Anderson has said, the pitching and defense has been there for the most part this season.

Minnesota is just two games out of first place in the Big Ten and occupies the second slot in the standing by itself for the first time this season. 

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