Baseball locks up No. 2 seed

by Sarah Mitchell

For the second consecutive season, the Minnesota baseball team will enter the Big Ten tournament as the No. 2 seed, thanks to a split with Michigan State over the weekend.
The Gophers, who finished the regular season three games behind Ohio State, won the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader 12-4 and Sunday’s game 8-6 while dropping the series opener 5-3 and Saturday’s nightcap 7-3.
“Not bad. We’ll take it,” said Gophers center fielder Mike Arlt of the second seed. “As long as we go into the conference tourney with confidence, we’ll do fine. I think (Sunday) was a big confidence booster for us.”
The bottom-of-the-league Spartans (27-24, 10-15) could have been looking to sweep the Gophers (41-14 overall, 21-7 in the Big Ten) on Sunday if not for a nine-run first inning in Saturday’s game one that saved the Gophers from falling to 0-3 in the series.
“Michigan State played above their statistical level,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “That’s what’s great about our game. That’s its nature.”
On Sunday, Minnesota was led offensively by two three-run home runs from shortstop Rick Brosseau. While Brosseau was busy trotting around the bases, Gophers pitchers Kelly Werner (5-2), Jason Shupe and Frank Wagner contained Michigan State.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Gophers catcher Josh Holthaus scored from third base to tie the game. Arlt’s sacrifice fly to center field drove in the run.
The Spartans built another one-run lead in the top of the fourth when Dan Watchowski scored from third base off a wild pitch, but Minnesota recovered in the same inning. With designated hitter Aron Amundson on second base and Holthaus on first, Brosseau recorded his first home run of the game.
Brosseau struck again in the bottom of the sixth when he drilled his second three-run dinger off Spartans starter Dan Horvath.
Minnesota posted one more run in the sixth. Right fielder Jason Kennedy followed Brosseau with a solo homer. The shot was the freshman’s fifth of the year and third in Big Ten action.
Despite two-run innings in the seventh and the ninth, the Spartans settled for the split.
“I think if you were to start at the beginning of the year and say you’re going to be 41-14 by this day, I think you’d be pretty happy,” Anderson said. “I think we’ve been pretty competitive and pretty consistent all year, and we’ve had the desire to win.”
The Gophers season is just beginning as they head to Ohio State this week for the Big Ten tournament. As the No. 2 seed, Minnesota will open the postseason against the third seed, which will be either Illinois or Michigan.
“There’s no team that we can’t beat,” Arlt said. “We’re expecting to go in there and win.”