After Wednesday’s 3-2, 10-inning win over South Dakota State, Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson noted that, at this point in the Big Ten season, most of the teams look pretty even.
Accordingly, his team is taking the season on a series-by-series basis, not taking any game for granted, and just focusing on winning every four-game set.
The Gophers (16-12, 5-3 Big Ten) will face the experienced and capable Penn State team this weekend. Minnesota battles the Lions (16-12, 5-3) at 3 p.m. today, twice starting at 1 p.m. Saturday and in the series finale at noon Sunday.
“They have an older team with a lot of returning players,” Anderson said. “I think they’re a team that has as good a chance as anybody in the league to win it all.”
Both the Gophers and Lions are included in a four-way tie for second place in the Big Ten conference with Michigan and Ohio State. Michigan State sits atop the league at 6-2, and only Iowa has less than three wins.
Minnesota hasn’t always shown the dominance that allowed it to finish 24-6 in the conference last season – a full five games in front of the second-place Buckeyes.
But portions of the Gophers’ game are showing up at certain times. Whereas the offense showed its potency in late March and early April, the pitching has come on recently.
And just as the pitching started to come around, position players admitted they didn’t hit the ball like they should have after Wednesday’s win over the Jackrabbits.
“We need to work on timely hitting and getting some more guys on base,” center fielder Sam Steidl said. “We just need to get the bats going a little more and handle the pitches we can handle.”
Should starting pitchers Glen Perkins and Craig Molldrem turn in performances like they did last weekend versus Indiana, the Gophers won’t need much help from their bats in the first two games against the Lions. Perkins and Molldrem combined to allow just two earned runs in 13 2/3 innings pitched.
The chore then is to get back to the Minnesota offense that scored 34 runs in four games against the Hoosiers.
“We need to put offense and defense and pitching all together,” shortstop Matt Fornasiere said. “We’ve had a couple of big leads and lost them. (Wednesday) we pitched well and didn’t hit as well.
“For us to win three out of four and maybe even sweep Penn State, we need to put all three things together.”
The Gophers were 15-1 in Big Ten play at Siebert Field last season. If Wednesday’s game was any indication, though, they know every game will be tough, regardless of where it’s played.
“You’ve still got to show up and make plays and make pitches,” Anderson said. “Just because you’re playing at home doesn’t assure you’re going to play well. You’ve got to show up in the right frame of mind and get after it.”
Gophers add Hamline
Minnesota announced it has added a midweek game against Hamline to its schedule. The Gophers and the Pipers will play at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 4 at Siebert Field.