Gophers hoping pitching staff returns to form for Purdue Series

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Ashley Goetz

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It was a puzzling weekend for head coach John Anderson. Nothing he had seen from his Minnesota baseball team or heard about Illinois suggested the teams would combine for 62 runs in three games. âÄúIâÄôd never have expected that coming into the series,âÄù Anderson said last Sunday after the Gophers dropped 2-of-3 to the Illini. Why would he? Minnesota entered the series as the best pitching team in the Big Ten, and surrendering 27 earned runs on the weekend didnâÄôt even knock them from the podium. The Gophers were tops in fielding, too, and again so far ahead of the conferenceâÄôs next best that nine errors did nothing to that rank. Of course, MinnesotaâÄôs pitching and defensive prowess made the lapse against the Illini that much more surprising, but it doesnâÄôt seem to be worrying the Gophers as they prepare for another Big Ten series this weekend against Purdue. The Boilermakers come to the Metrodome tonight at 6:35 p.m. Games are scheduled for 2:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday as well. âÄúOur pitchers did so well for so long but it happens, they had a bad week,âÄù redshirt freshman shortstop AJ Pettersen said. âÄúWeâÄôre not worried about it, it was going to happen eventually and I think theyâÄôre going to get back on track this weekend.âÄù ThereâÄôs no reason to suspect otherwise. Prior to giving up five earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings against Illinois, senior Chauncy Handran, who will start tonight, had won six straight decisions. And six men that could come out of the bullpen got work Wednesday night against North Dakota State. Collectively, they allowed just one earned run. Especially encouraging was sophomore reliever Cullen SextonâÄôs quick inning of work. HeâÄôs struggled recently after a dominating start to the season. âÄúWe need to get him back,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúI thought it was a good start [Wednesday]; weâÄôre going to need him on the weekend.âÄù This weekend will be MinnesotaâÄôs last this year in the Metrodome, a venue that has been kind to the Gophers âÄì theyâÄôre 11-4 under the bubble this season. âÄúI guess IâÄôd prefer playing outside, itâÄôs a little more of a fun environment and we can get kids on campus watching the game,âÄù freshman third baseman Kyle Geason said. âÄúBut IâÄôm never going to argue playing at the Metrodome, itâÄôs a great facility for us.âÄù