Gophers win final two games of road series at Michigan State for split

Robert Mews

With back-to-back come-from-behind losses to Michigan State this weekend, it looked as if Minnesota’s baseball team would leave East Lansing, Mich., without at least a series split.

But the Gophers (20-17, 8-8 Big Ten) responded with an outpouring of runs in Saturday’s second game against the Spartans (19-18, 8-8 Big Ten) with a 20-6 decision and took the series finale Sunday in a 6-3 rain-soaked, seven-inning decision.

“As I told the kids after the game, I said many teams I think could have folded after the way we lost the first two games,” coach John Anderson said.

Sunday’s game, which ended in the seventh inning because of a travel curfew, was not so much about a comeback as it was about having to deal with coming back to play after a one-hour, 45-minute rain delay.

Minnesota led 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning when the rain caused the game to be delayed.

“It was a real drag,” catcher Chris Herbert said. “Once the rain delay hit, we tried to keep our hopes up.”

Because of the delay, starting pitcher Cole DeVries didn’t return. Senior Andy Peters took over in relief.

“Andy Peters went out there and pitched like a senior and did a great job,” Anderson said.

He also said having a rain delay in the fourth game places more stress on the pitching staff.

“It’s always harder in the fourth game because you’ve been through some pitching already,” he said. “It’s the last day, and you only have so many options on the last day.”

Peters got the win for the Gophers after the game ended in the seventh inning because of the travel curfew.

With the win, Anderson becomes the first coach in Big Ten history to reach 400 career conference wins.

“I’m just thankful for all the great players that I’ve had and assistant coaches,” Anderson said. “Can’t do it by yourself. I’ve been blessed with quality people on and off the field.”

Saturday’s second game was a showcase of offensive power for the Gophers.

Minnesota, which just came off a 9-8 loss to Michigan State 30 minutes earlier Saturday, responded by blasting 20 runs.

“It was fun,” first baseman Andy Hunter said. “It was a park that kind of played into us a little bit. The winds were blowing out to right all weekend, and there was a nice little porch out in right field.”

Anderson said it’s a sign that the offense is coming around.

“We’re striking out less,” he said. “We’re putting more balls into play and having more competitive at-bats for the most part.”

However, while Minnesota’s bats were alive this weekend, the team still couldn’t capture the first two games of the series.

In Friday’s game and Saturday’s first game, the Gophers were leading going into the late stretch of the game.

But the Spartans in both games were able to come from behind and secure victories with a 9-8 victory Saturday and 7-6 victory Friday.

“We were maybe two outs away from sweeping the series,” Anderson said. “I was concerned when that happens, especially on Saturday when you got to turn around and play another game.”