Gophers looking to end road woes

Consistency has been the theme for the Minnesota baseball team so far this season and, while the team has become more consistent, the results haven’t shown up in the win-loss column, yet.

The Gophers (12-11 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) wrapped up a stretch of 14 games in 18 days last Sunday, and should feel rested after not playing any games in the past five days. Minnesota came out of the stretch with an 8-6 record and armed with an emerging offense, after it initially struggled to find hits.

But just as the Gophers jump one hurdle, they find themselves with another challenge – their first Big Ten road trip.

Minnesota has gone 1-5 away from the Metrodome this season, but believe they can find success against Ohio State (13-8 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) in a four-game set this weekend.

“We’ve kind of struggled on the road. I think our team has grown a lot over the long stretch we’ve had,” junior center fielder Matt Nohelty said. “We’re a little more consistent, both offensively and defensively. Hopefully we can get three out of four and maybe even a sweep.”

Despite the lack of success on the road, Gophers head coach John Anderson doesn’t believe the change in scenery makes much difference.

“The game’s not any different on the road or at home,” Anderson said. “It’s the same game and you shouldn’t let the environment or where you’re playing dictate the game.”

The offense struggled in the first two road trips of the season; as the lineup managed 21 runs in six games, 11 of those came in Minnesota’s lone road victory March 16 against Pacific.

Since that win, the Gophers finished the month with a team batting average of .314 and a stronger starting staff.

Junior starter Tom Buske led the staff with a 3-1 record and 1.73 ERA.

Buske and the rest of the team will renew a heated rivalry with the Buckeyes at 5:35 p.m. tonight at Bill Davis Stadium.

Last season, Buske shutdown Ohio State in the regular season when he pitched 6.2 innings and only allowed three earned runs.

“This is probably my favorite rivalry in the Big Ten,” Buske said. “I’m sure they’re going to want to get after me.”

Perhaps, but the Buckeyes got the last laugh as they bounced Minnesota from the Big Ten tournament last year in the championship game.

The two teams own the most conference wins since 2000. The Gophers have 156 wins, while Ohio State has 146.

Including postseason tournament games, Minnesota and the Buckeyes have faced each other more than any two teams in the entire nation, with 34 games since 2002. They have played each other every year in the conference tournament since 2001.

“It should be fun to get outside and play in the Big Ten,” Buske said. “I’m curious to see how we perform.”

Buske remains curious because it’s another opportunity for the younger players to adapt to the elements of the outdoors after enjoying the controlled environment of the Metrodome for the last 11 games.

“You’ve got young players that haven’t played out there,” Anderson said. “That’s the biggest challenge of going on the road, especially when you come from a controlled environment and artificial turf – where things are pretty consistent in terms of how the game is played – to going outdoors and adjusting to the elements. That will be the biggest adjustment we’ll go through.”