Gophers sweep Iowa to take first in Big Ten

The Gophers baseball team huddled around coach John Anderson following its four-game sweep of Iowa while the crowd at Siebert Field cheered Sunday.
Then the public address announcer gave the scores of the Illinois-Purdue series and the crowd cheered even louder.
While Minnesota helped itself with the big wins over the Hawkeyes, the Boilermakers’ sweep of first-place Illinois may have helped more.
The Illini’s collapse moved the Gophers (26-16, 12-4 Big Ten) back into first place in the conference.
“I’m involved in the games so much I don’t hear those things,” Anderson said, referring to the PA announcement. “But I definitely had a smile on my face when I heard the scores after the game on Saturday.”
Same goes for the Gophers players.
“You never really worry about what other teams are doing,” senior pitcher Chadd Clarey said. “We just went out there and tried to win our series.”
Win they did.
While a sweep may not be common for Minnesota, sweeping the Hawkeyes is almost a clichÇ. As history shows, all the Gophers do is beat Iowa. Sunday’s Minnesota win was the 19th straight over the Hawkeyes.
The wins were thanks largely to the men on the mound.
The big question heading into the weekend was: How will the Gophers starting pitchers fare?
The answer: As well as they have all year.
Erase the four-run Hawkeyes first inning in game one on Friday and Minnesota’s pitchers gave up just five runs over 31 innings.
Anderson said the ability to come back from the early four-run deficit in game one set the stage for the weekend, especially from the staff.
“That was a good sign that we were able to keep our composure and comeback to have a good weekend,” he said. “We had an outstanding weekend.”
The near unhittable Minnesota pitchers then gave way to the Gophers’ bats, which certainly didn’t help the Hawkeyes’ ERAs.
Minnesota scored 31 runs over the four games, led by third baseman Jack Hannahan. The sophomore went 10 for 16, knocking in six of the Gophers’ runs.
But he also was a factor in the field. Along with second baseman Mark Devore, the pair could have made a highlight real of their defensive plays.
“We went to a bad spell early in the year where we couldn’t catch anything,” Anderson said. “You can’t be a winning team unless you play defense.”
Although Minnesota’s offense was solid, the defense at times spectacular, the pitching was the top story.
Iowa coach Scott Broghamer gave credit to the Gophers’ hurlers, but also blamed the lack of offensive production from his team on inexperience.
“We’ve had some injuries and we’re playing some young players right now,” Broghamer said. “I think Minnesota’s pitchers were able to take advantage of that.”
While fellow starters Mike Kobow, Ben Birk and Kelly Werner were all strong on the hill in collecting wins, Anderson singled out Clarey as being the most impressive of the four.
After getting roughed up his previous two appearances, Clarey was on a mission Sunday.
The result was a five-inning, two-hit performance Sunday which allowed his team to put runs on the board, cruise to the 8-2 win and bring out the brooms at Siebert.
“Clarey got back on track,” Anderson said. “He was able to use all three of his pitches, instead of throwing too many fastballs.”
Added Clarey: “Everything did go my way. I’ve had a rough outing my last couple of times, I just wanted to go out and throw my pitches.”

John R. Carter covers baseball and welcomes comments at [email protected]