Strong pitching leads Gophers to sweep

Head coach John Anderson won his 500th conference game Sunday.

In-fielder Ryan Abrahamson swings for his home run on Sunday, March 3, 2013, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Emily Dunker

In-fielder Ryan Abrahamson swings for his home run on Sunday, March 3, 2013, at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Samuel Gordon

Gophers head coach John Anderson envisioned a starting rotation of juniors Tom Windle, Alec Crawford and DJ Snelten before the season.

After seeing it in action for the first time, it’s easy to see why.

Minnesota, behind strong starting pitching and outstanding work by the bullpen, swept Northwestern during the weekend to improve to 7-2 in the Big Ten.

All three of the Gophers’ starters pitched well. Crawford and Snelten both earned victories, and Windle threw five innings of one-run ball Friday en route to a no-decision.

Windle has been the ace of the staff all season. Injuries kept Crawford and Snelten out for the first half of the season before they were eased back as starters.

 Anderson said he was content with the way his starters threw but was more impressed with his relievers.

“Our bullpen came up big this weekend,” he said.

Minnesota’s bullpen allowed one run in 10.1 innings during the weekend.

Typically relievers throw during midweek games, but poor weather has canceled three of those games.

Snelten completed the sweep with another strong outing Sunday. In his first start since his one-hitter against Ohio State on April 7, he threw 6.2 innings and allowed one run on four hits.

“I’ve been able to establish [my fastball] on both sides of the plate,” Snelten said.

Senior left fielder Andy Henkemeyer was 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs on Sunday.

Freshman second baseman Connor Schaefbauer and senior catcher/outfielder Kurt Schlangen both had multi-hit games as well.

The Gophers pulled out Friday’s victory in thrilling fashion. With the score tied 2-2 in the eighth inning, senior third baseman Ryan Abrahamson hit a two-run home run to give the Gophers a 4-2 lead. Abrahamson said the homer was one of the biggest hits of his career.

Saturday’s 6-3 win came thanks to a few wild Wildcats pitches that allowed three Gophers runs.

Sunday’s win was Anderson’s 500th in Big Ten play. He deferred credit to his players and staff afterward.

“It’s a testament to what I’ve said for years and years,” Anderson said. “You’ve got to surround yourself with quality people to get good results.”