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Baseball takes three of four from Michigan

With two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the first inning of Minnesota’s second game on Saturday, a toddler near the press box yelled at second baseman Luke Appert to hit a home run.

Appert obliged by blasting the next pitch over the right field wall for his first of two home runs in the series.

Timely hitting by Appert and the rest of the Gophers, coupled with solid team defense and pitching, propelled Minnesota to victories in three of four games to Michigan over the weekend. The Gophers (13-15) are tied for third in the Big Ten with a 5-3 conference record.

“I challenged the kids a little bit after we won last Sunday,” coach John Anderson said. “I thought we were lacking confidence. We played with a lot of courage (this weekend), like Minnesota baseball teams play.”

Anderson said playing with a lead was the key to the Gophers’ success this weekend. Minnesota trailed for only half an inning all weekend, but unfortunately it was the bottom of the ninth during Sunday’s game.

Minnesota led 3-2 heading into the final frame, but freshman reliever Tim Theis gave up two runs with two outs on a single to left by pinch hitter Jason Wuerful.

The Gophers were retired in order in the bottom of the inning and lost the chance at a series sweep.

“It’s tough,” said Appert. “You don’t get too many opportunities to sweep a series, especially against a pretty good team. We had them all game.”

Before the series began, Anderson said his team defense must improve. Prior to Friday’s game, Minnesota committed 50 errors in 24 games.

But the Gophers tightened the screws on the Wolverines (8-16, 4-4 Big Ten) fielding flawlessly in three of the four games. They committed two errors in the second game of the double-header on Saturday.

Minnesota’s defensive improvements were especially evident during Friday’s first game.

“That was probably the cleanest and best game we’ve played all year,” Anderson said.

The defense made difficult plays when needed, but pitcher Craig Molldrem led the 10-0 victory.

The sophomore threw his first career shutout on Friday, allowing only three hits, two coming in the ninth inning. He walked only one while striking out five.

The pitching remained strong in both seven-inning games on Saturday as well. In the first contest, C.J. Woodrow threw six innings of one-run ball to earn a 3-1 victory. Theis was credited with the save.

Sophomore Josh Krogman went the distance in the second game, giving up two runs (one earned) and striking out five to tally a 4-2 victory.

Offensively, Appert led the way, hitting 5-for-13 including a double, triple, and the two home runs.

Right fielder Jason Kennedy hit a round-tripper as well in the Friday game.

“They played really well,” Michigan coach Chris Harrison said. “It’s a typical John Anderson team. They make you beat them. They throw the ball over the plate. They played solid ball all weekend.”

Minnesota heads to Nebraska on Wednesday for the final contest of the three-game series. The 12th-ranked Cornhuskers split the previous two meetings with the Gophers at the Metrodome last month.

Anthony Maggio covers baseball and
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