Baseball team looks

Sarah Mitchell

Heading into this weekend’s four-game road series against 24-20 Michigan State, it seems as though Minnesota’s baseball team would be carefree.
But Gophers infielder Matt Brosseau’s voice dwelled upon one thing.
“Not winning,” the junior said.
After putting some more thought into the question, Brosseau voiced one more concern.
“Actually, I am kind of nervous about our flight, seeing as how we have to be at Bierman at five in the morning,” Brosseau said.
Perhaps the Gophers (33-12 overall, 12-8 in the Big Ten) have nothing to fear in taking on the entire Spartan team. But if baseball were a one-man game, the Gophers might struggle to find someone to combat Michigan State’s Mark Mulder.
The junior not only leads the Spartans in every pitching statistic, excluding saves, but he is also Michigan’s State top slugger, leading the team in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
Mulder, whose most recent win came against an offensively dangerous Notre Dame on Tuesday, is scheduled to throw Saturday’s game one against the Gophers. Minnesota’s offense should expect Mulder to be even tougher, as he is searching for seven strikeouts to tie Michigan State’s single season strikeout record of 107.
When the southpaw is not on mound, his name might be found on the lineup card at first base, left field or designated hitter.
“It’s kind of a gameday decision,” Michigan State assistant coach Greg Gunderson said of where the Gophers might find Mulder during the rest of the series. “We see who is pitching.”
Most teams throw their strongest pitcher on Friday, but the Spartans coaching staff elected to save their All-American candidate and top five free agent draft prospect for Saturday. Instead, senior Brian Murphy will battle Minnesota’s Ben Birk in game one.
But Gunderson said Murphy was the team’s number one starter the previous two years, and because of his experience at this spot of the pitching rotation, Mulder will continue to throw in the two spot.
Glancing at Michigan State’s statistics, it seems as though the talent level drops off drastically after Mulder. Most of the players are barely hitting over .300, and the Spartans’ team batting average is 64 points lower than Minnesota’s.
But the Spartans roughed up Michigan in their last Big Ten conference series two weeks ago by winning three of four games and posting scores of 10-1 and 7-2. The Gophers were not as successful against the Wolverines three weeks ago, as Michigan surrendered only one win to the Gophers.
“They are probably a lot like Michigan,” Brosseau said. “They are probably a better team than their record indicates.”
Brosseau added this is true of most teams in the Big Ten, including the Gophers.
“The Big Ten is pretty even,” Brosseau said. “There is no sense in looking at statistics. They really don’t tell anything.”
While this series is critical to the Gophers, a sweep is vital for the Spartans. With a 7-9 record in the Big Ten, Michigan State’s Big Ten tournament hopes are dwindling and definitely on the line during their final homestand this weekend.
Infielder Mark Devore expects the series to be a battle, but he said if the Gophers perform to their ability offensively, defensively and on the mound, Minnesota will ruin the Spartans’ chances of making a tournament appearance.
“We just have to play a well-rounded game,” Devore said. “If our pitching picks up a little bit and we continue to play good defense and hit the ball, I like our chances.”