Keep on trucking: Road-weary Gophers off to Ind.

Last week, the Gophers played 39 innings in 50 hours.

Aaron Blake

As Minnesota’s baseball team hits the tail end of a 19-game, monthlong road trip, the emphasis is appropriately on finishing.

The arduous period of travel will soon be over, and Gophers coach John Anderson is encouraging his players to close out innings on the defensive side of the ball and be energetic and focused enough to get on the right track before returning for a six-game homestand.

Just four games against Indiana stand in their way, as the Gophers (12-11, 2-2 Big Ten) take on the Hoosiers (18-9, 2-2) once at 3 p.m. Friday, twice beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday and once more at noon Sunday. All the games are at Sembower Field in Bloomington, Ind.

“I worry a little bit about our energy level and our focus,” Anderson said. “I hope we can keep the guys together here for another weekend. It’s been a long stretch.”

Anderson calculated that his team played 39 innings in 50 hours last weekend at Michigan. He said that the airports, buses and hotel rooms begin to take a toll on players. Combined with not having the last at-bat, this makes games tougher.

He also said the team needs to finish innings on defense because too many times runners have reached base with two outs and nobody on.

He said he wasn’t overly concerned about the seven-and five-run leads his team blew against Michigan on Sunday and Northern Iowa on Wednesday. He chalked those losses up to a lot of little things going against his team.

The Gophers are looking at this weekend as an opportunity to get back up on the plus side of things.

“I think we have a pretty good chance to win four games this weekend with the guys we’ve got going,” shortstop Matt Fornasiere said. “We feel that way every weekend, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. So you just play the game and see what happens.”

The Hoosiers own the best overall record in the conference, the most potent run-scoring offense (222 runs in 27 games) and the stingiest pitching staff (4.10 ERA) to this point in the season.

Indiana shortstop Seth Bynum leads the Big Ten in hitting (.424), runs scored (30) and RBIs (36).

But the Hoosiers have hardly played the type of opponents the Gophers have, and Minnesota is still the defending Big Ten champion.

With a somewhat trying week behind them – including three extra-inning games and a 2-3 record – the Gophers’ four games in Indiana should be important to their season.

“That’s the great part about baseball,” third baseman David Hrncirik said. “There’s always another weekend.”