Minnesota has little trouble with NDSU

by Paul Cordes

North Dakota State is now the latest victim of the Minnesota baseball team’s hot swinging lineup.

The Gophers continued their dominance at the plate as they beat the Bison 10-4 to win their fourth straight in front of 431 at Siebert field last night.

Minnesota has scored in double-digits its last four games; making it the first time since 1999 the Gophers have managed that feat.

Timely hitting for Minnesota proved to be key Wednesday night. With senior shortstop Dan Lyons on third and North Dakota State (8-23 overall) pulling its infield in to cut off the run, freshman second baseman Derek McCallum delivered a one-out single up the middle to bring in the run.

With McCallum as just one of many Gophers hitting well, coach John Anderson said it was good to see timely hitting at the plate.

“Derek had a great at bat there for us and just put he ball in play with two strikes,” Anderson said. “Especially in that situation when a strike out doesn’t do us any good we need to be able to have a good at bat and we’d like a fly ball to the outfield, but we at least need to be able to put the ball in play somewhere.”

And not only did Minnesota (31-8, 12-3 Big Ten) find some empty places to hit the ball, but found a couple of places over the fence.

The Gophers benefited from a pair of three run home runs with Lyons’ opposite field homer off the scoreboard in the first, followed by freshman catcher Kyle Knudson’s blast to the right-center power alley in the fifth.

Lyons, who now leads the Gophers with seven homers on the season, said he’s more focused on having a good at bat than putting the ball out of the ballpark.

“They put up one on us in the first and we came back and answered with three of our own,” Lyons said. “I’m not really trying to hit home runs, I’m just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere. I’m just getting lucky sometimes.”

Luck or not, Lyons, who spent the majority of the year in the two hole for Minnesota, got moved up and down the lineup against Michigan State before finding his niche as the fifth bat in the Gophers’ lineup against Illinois.

And Lyons didn’t feel the need to procrastinate in breaking into his new spot in the order.

In his last four games in the nine hole, he is 9-for-14 with 12 runs, nine runs batted in and two homeruns.

Anderson said he did some experimenting with the lineup and made a lot of changes that he thinks are now benefiting the team, and Lyons is a good example of it.

“I like (Lyons) there right now,” Anderson said. “We were looking to add a little more speed to the middle of our lineup and he brings that, and he’s just also a really aggressive hitter and goes up there wanting to hit the all. Now he’s showing he has a little bit of power, too.”

And tagging right behind Minnesota’s offensive explosion has been solid defensive outings following last Friday’s five error wakeup call against Illinois in a 10-5 loss.

The Gophers prevented a possible Bison rally in the second after McCallum made a backhanded play up the middle then followed it with an off balance throw to nail the leadoff batter. The next North Dakota State hitter poked a base hit to center field, but with already one out the Bison couldn’t manufacture a run in the inning.

“We’ve really been focusing on playing good defense,” McCallum said. “If we can play errorless baseball, we’re going to have a lot of success.”