Short weekend leads to Big Ten split

MN Daily File Photo

Jules Ameel

MN Daily File Photo

Mother Nature must have a sense of humor. By shortening what was supposed to be MinnesotaâÄôs first-ever three-game Big Ten series, she caused exactly what this yearâÄôs switch from four- to three-game conference series was intended to eliminate âÄî a split. Prior to 2009, Big Ten series were four-game affairs played over three days, with day two featuring a doubleheader of two seven-inning games. This meant a split series was always a possibility, not to mention it stood in contrast to the rest of the country, which played three nine-inning games throughout the season. This year, however, the Big Ten fell in line, and pesky split series were to be a thing of the past. Or not. Due to uncooperative weather, SundayâÄôs series finale was cancelled and the Gophers (14-7 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) split their first Big Ten series of the season against Indiana (8-15, 1-1). After a convincing 12-5 win Friday, senior starter Tom Buske was outdueled by the HoosiersâÄô Eric Arnett and Minnesota dropped a 3-2 decision on Saturday. âÄúYouâÄôre hoping for that Sunday [game] just for cases just like this, where youâÄôre split through two games and looking to take the series on Sunday,âÄù junior second baseman Derek McCallum said. âÄúWeâÄôre obviously bummed that we had a chance to win it this weekend but weather prevented that.âÄù On Saturday, Buske suffered his first loss of the season despite giving up just a pair of earned runs in 6 1/3 innings of work. It was IndianaâÄôs fifth-inning unearned run that was the difference in the game, because Arnett, a fireballer whom redshirt freshman shortstop AJ Pettersen said was throwing upwards of 95 mph, allowed two runs as well in a complete game gem. Arnett struck out 10 and surrendered just six hits. âÄú[Arnett is] considered one of the top pitchers in the league,âÄù head coach John Anderson said. âÄúHeâÄôs being followed closely by professional baseball, and he pitched like a top prospect [Saturday]. He got three pitches over the plate consistently; we had some chances and just couldnâÄôt get one more hit. But sometimes good pitchers are able to execute that one more pitch and close it out.âÄù For the first time this season, the Gophers failed to score five or more runs during a Buske start, and Pettersen was quick to place the burden of the loss on the lack of offense. âÄúBuske threw really well [Saturday],âÄù Pettersen said. âÄú[He gave up] one wind-blown, jammed home run and that was about it. He went out there and pitched great and did what he had to do, we just didnâÄôt get the runs through.âÄù In contrast, Minnesota had no trouble getting runs through Friday afternoon. The Gophers exploded for six runs on five hits in the fourth inning and added five more in the seventh and ninth. It was the fourth straight game Minnesota scored more than 10 runs dating back to its sweep of Dallas Baptist March 19-21. âÄúEverything went our way,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúWe created our opportunities, we took advantage of some mistakes they made on the mound and on defense, Chauncy Handran pitched outstanding, pitched himself out of a couple jams early, and we made a couple great plays on defense when the game was still in balance.âÄù Handran needed just 94 pitches to go a career-high eight innings, allowing two runs on six hits and fanning four . âÄúOur pitching has been kind of our backbone this year thus far, and it was no exception this weekend,âÄù McCallum said. âÄúChauncy threw another great game. ItâÄôs good to see weâÄôre still throwing well, itâÄôs just a bummer we couldnâÄôt come up big for Tom on Saturday.âÄù