Gophers trying to shake 3 weeks of ‘bad luck’

John Anderson said baseball is at times “cruel” and the Gophers are feeling it.

Trevor Born

;”Baseball’s a cruel game, and things just aren’t going our way,” head coach John Anderson said after Minnesota’s 5-4 loss to South Dakota State on Wednesday.

Even with all the team’s starting pitching and bullpen problems, Anderson has a point, and Wednesday night was a prime example.

Trailing 3-1 with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth, Mike Kvasnicka crushed a line drive up the middle that sounded like it would score at least two runs. But it was hit directly to Jackrabbits second baseman Jesse Ayala, who was in perfect position to step on second base for the double play, ending the threat.

Tied 4-4 in the top of the ninth with two runners on, Nate Hanson hit a towering fly ball to left field that looked like it would give the Gophers a big lead with three outs to go. Instead, the 15-20 mph winds in Sioux Falls were blowing straight in from left field, and the ball was caught on the warning track to end the inning.

Then, with the score still tied in the bottom of the tenth, South Dakota State’s Tyson Fisher hit a harmless fly ball that left fielder Eric Decker lost in the lights, allowing Fisher to reach second and score the winning run two plays later.

“I know it sounds like an excuse, but things seriously just haven’t been going our way,” shortstop Derek McCallum said. “That’s the nature of the game, but it hasn’t treated us very well lately.”

The Gophers (16-22, 6-10 Big Ten) have now lost 13 of their last 17 games, and have scored six or more runs in seven of those losses.

“We’ve had our fair share over the past three weeks of bad luck,” Anderson said. “All you can do is keep playing, I guess. If you respect the game and don’t let it eat you up and get frustrated and angry, maybe some of the good fortune will come back our way before it’s over.”

After Purdue (21-17, 12-4 Big Ten) there are just three series left of the season for the Gophers, so they need that luck to come around soon.

Only the top-six conference finishers advance to the Big Ten tournament and the Gophers are currently in seventh place. They haven’t finished out of the top-six in 40 years and haven’t missed the Big Ten tournament in 10.

Both are possibilities this year, as Minnesota’s schedule is very back-heavy. Three of their final four series are against teams that will likely finish in the top half of the conference, and two are against the current top-two teams, Purdue and Michigan.

“We feel like we pretty much have to win every series from here on out to get to the tournament and contend,” said junior Chauncey Handran, who pitched six scoreless innings of relief Wednesday. “It’s the home stretch here.”