Buckeyes steal 3 from Minnesota

Trevor Born

The Gophers left an average of eight runners on base per game as they lost three-of-four games to Ohio State in their first Big Ten road series of the year this weekend.

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Northern Iowa
what: Baseball
when: 3:05 p.m., Wednesday
where: Siebert Field

Leadoff hitter Matt Nohelty went 7-for-14 in the series and No. 2 hitter Eric Decker went 5-for-9, reaching base a combined 18 times, but the middle of the order failed to drive them in for most of the series. The third, fourth and fifth Minnesota hitters combined for just four RBIs in the first three games.

“With the speed at the top of our order, it’s not too hard to move them over,” catcher Jeff DeSmidt, who bats fourth, said. “It’s comforting having that speed in front of you. We just didn’t get some of the hits we needed.”

For instance, in the second game of the double header Saturday, Nohelty led off the game with a single and stole second. Decker then walked, leaving the Gophers with their two fastest players on first and second with no outs. But Nate Hanson popped out, DeSmidt grounded out and Mike Kvasnicka struck out to end the rally.

In the third inning of the same game, which Minnesota (14-16, 4-7 Big Ten) lost 4-1, Nohelty and Decker each had one-out singles, but Hanson popped out and DeSmidt grounded out to second base to end the inning.

“Eric and I were setting the table pretty well this weekend, but the other guys just couldn’t get some of the hits they needed,” Nohelty said. “Some well-hit balls just didn’t drop or were hit right at people. It felt like we were one hit away, a lot.”

Nohelty was one of Minnesota’s brightest spots of the weekend. One of the fastest players in college baseball, he has become Minnesota’s top hitter and one of the conference’s top leadoff hitters. He came into the series with the fourth highest batting average in the Big Ten.

He leads the Gophers in batting average, hits, RBIs, runs scored, four-hit games and three-hit games.

Nohelty won a starting job midway through his freshman year – a year where he was named to the freshman All-American team – and has been Minnesota’s everyday centerfielder since.

“He’s played a lot of college baseball, and you can see that in how he plays,” Anderson said. “There’s no replacement for experience.”

Another bright spot for the Gophers was Kyle Carr, who pitched a complete game shutout in Minnesota’s only win. Carr allowed seven hits, two walks and struck out four batters as Minnesota won 6-0 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.

The junior spent the first two years of his career in the bullpen, but has adjusted well to starting pitching. In seven starts he’s 2-3 with a 3.79 ERA.

“He’s done a fantastic job adjusting,” DeSmidt, who caught Carr, said. “He’s gotten better mixing up pitches and moving them on both sides of the plate, instead of just blowing fastballs by guys.”

The Gophers opened the series with a sloppy 11-6 loss in which they committed six errors and allowed six unearned runs.

In the final game of the series, Minnesota led 4-2 before the Buckeyes (16-9, 5-3 Big Ten) batted around in the bottom of the sixth, scoring five runs. DeSmidt retied the game with a three-run homerun in the seventh, but Ohio State answered with another run in the bottom of the inning to win 8-7.

The Gophers play Northern Iowa at 3:05 p.m. Wednesday. The game was originally scheduled for Siebert Field, but has been moved to the Metrodome. The Gophers play at Siebert field for the first time April 18 against Illinois.