Gophers split series in Michigan

Minnesota held an 8-1 lead in the fourth game before the Wolverines stole the game.

Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s baseball team got the Big Ten season off to the wrong start with a 4-3, 12-inning loss Friday against Michigan and came up just short of rebounding to win the four-game series.

The Gophers (12-10, 2-2 Big Ten) began their quest for a third-straight regular season conference crown with a disappointing split at Ray Fisher Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., after losing an 8-1 lead in the fourth game Sunday.

The Wolverines (11-11, 2-2) took Sunday’s game 12-10 to earn the series tie, while the Gophers took both games slated for Saturday – 6-5 in 11 innings in the first contest and 3-2 in a seven-inning game that concluded Sunday.

“One of our goals for the season was to win every Big Ten series,” center fielder Sam Steidl said. “Splitting just doesn’t cut it.”

In Sunday’s game, the Wolverines put together 11 runs in the middle-three innings to rally to a 12-10 lead, which they would hold over the final three innings.

Starter Matt Loberg allowed four runs in the fourth and two in the fifth. Andy Peters then came in for 1 2/3 innings and allowed four more runs before John Gaub stopped the bleeding and closed out the game.

“They had a few hits fall in for them here and there, and that’s baseball,” Steidl said. “I just don’t think we pitched up to our potential.”

In the game that started Saturday and concluded Sunday, starter Josh Krogman and freshman Cole DeVries combined to allow just four hits and two runs in the seven-inning affair.

Reigning Big Ten player of the week Matt Fornasiere continued his torrid hitting pace by beginning the game with a solo home run in the top of the first.

In the other Minnesota victory, the Gophers rallied from a 5-2 deficit to knot that game at five in the top of the sixth. Then, in the top of the 11th, second baseman Luke MacLean singled in left fielder Tony Leseman to take a 6-5 lead.

Josh Oslin retired the side in the bottom of the inning for his second victory of the season.

On Friday, despite Big Ten freshman of the year Glen Perkins’ nine-inning, three-run performance, Michigan left fielder Matt Butler’s RBI single off Peters in the bottom of the 12th gave his team the early edge in the series.

But what irked the team’s coach is not how the team started the weekend, but how it finished it by blowing a huge lead.

“That’s the part that’s not acceptable to me,” coach John Anderson said. “I just think you should put people away in that situation. We didn’t, and we

didn’t do it on the mound.”

But not everyone on the Gophers was as disappointed in the outcomes, and they are putting it in perspective as just the first series of a long Big Ten season.

“We try to stay positive,” first baseman Mike Mee said. “It’s a sprint, not a marathon.

“If we just stick to our guns, we should be all right.”