Table set for Gophers baseball against ‘Cats

Tim Klobuchar

The Gophers baseball team knew going into its weekend series at Iowa that it had to win the series to have a realistic chance at catching Illinois or Purdue — the two teams tied for third-place — and making the Big Ten tournament. The top four teams make the tournament.
But the fifth-place Gophers also counted on getting at least an ounce of help from the Illini and Boilermakers’ opponents. They got none.
Purdue swept Indiana and Illinois did the same to Northwestern, making all four of Minnesota’s wins this weekend absolutely necessary.
The conference has proven to be every bit as wide-open as coaches thought it would be, with Purdue, picked seventh in Baseball America’s preseason Big Ten poll, the only team guaranteed to be in the tournament. Here’s a look at the current situation:
Michigan (15-7) is in first place and Ohio State (16-8) is in second. Those two teams play in Ann Arbor, Mich., this weekend. Purdue and Illinois are tied for third at 17-11. Their conference seasons are over. The Gophers are alone in fifth at 12-9, and finish their season with a home series this weekend against ninth-place Northwestern.
Here are the ways the Gophers can make the Big Ten tournament:
ù They sweep Northwestern in this weekend’s four-game series at Siebert Field. If they do, they bounce Illinois, which lost three of four to Purdue earlier this year, from the tournament and finish third.
ù The Gophers take at least three of four from the Wildcats and either Michigan or Ohio State gets swept. If that happens, the swept team is out of the tournament. In that scenario, Minnesota would finish fourth if they win three, second if they sweep.
Bryan’s song
Gophers senior catcher Bryan Guse was mired in a 2-for-25 slump in Big Ten games when he came up in the top of the seventh of Sunday’s first game with the go-ahead run on second, two outs and the score tied at one.
Guse, hitting eighth in the lineup after spending the last two years in the middle of the order, came through with a base hit to left, bringing in Bob Keeney with the game-winning run.
It was an important hit for both the team and also for Guse, who had a career batting average of .331 coming into the season but was hitting more than 20 points below that this year because of his recent struggles.
“I’ve never gone through anything like this in my life,” Guse said after the game. “Throwing helmets and stuff like that doesn’t do any good. It’s just too bad it had to happen in this part of my senior year. But that’s baseball.”
Guse looked like he might be out of the slump later in game two, when he cranked a prodigious homer to right that flew so far Guse admired much of its flight from the home plate area.
But he went hitless in his last three at-bats in the game, a 19-11 marathon, ending his series 3-for-16.
The Gophers’ sweep, however, at least helped Guse keep his sense of humor.
“Hey 14,” Guse said to Gophers coach John Anderson, referring to his uniform number. “Wasn’t that courteous of me to make all those outs and keep the game moving like that?”
Anderson looked blankly at Guse for a moment and deadpanned, “I’m proud of you.”
Hit & Run
ù The Gophers raised their team batting average from .324 to .335 with their 60-for-142 (.423) performance this weekend.
ù Minnesota has two nonconference games at Siebert Field this week against Division III opponents. The Gophers play St. John’s on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and St. Thomas on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.