Gophers drop 6 of 8 during break

Minnesota has failed to find all the pieces of the puzzle so far.

by Aleutian Calabay

Early season struggles have begun to carry over into the middle of the season for the Minnesota baseball team. The Gophers frequently receive a solid performance from their pitching staff, or they produce at the plate, but rarely do both happen in the same game. The defense has been mostly solid, but it has also been their downfall in a couple of games. The eight games the Gophers played over spring break exemplified their flaws as they managed just two wins, but were only outscored 47-42 during that span. âÄúWeâÄôre 6-13 because we havenâÄôt been able to put three-phases of the game together consistently,âÄù Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. âÄúWe need better execution to be able to play at a high level and win.âÄù While the team as a whole continues to be unpredictable, certain players have stepped up into leadership roles for the Gophers. AJ Pettersen continues to be a terrific leadoff hitter, leading the team with a .385 batting average and has scored 17 runs and driven in 14. Michael Kvasnicka has continued to develop into a strong power hitter, hitting a team-high four home runs on the season with 15 RBIs while maintaining a .333 batting average. The junior has also cut down on the strikeouts that plagued him early in his career, having only two so far this season while drawing 15 walks. The pitching staff has seen few players consistently throw well, but freshman TJ Oakes has a team best 1.96 ERA and has given up two runs or less in each of his three starts this season. âÄúI do see some improvement and there are parts of our team that I like,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúWeâÄôve been competitive in a lot of games, and the good news is that weâÄôre as healthy as we have been all season.âÄù Metrodome Tournament The Gophers began the Metrodome Tournament with a solid 7-1 win over Harvard behind Seth Rosin âÄôs best pitching performance so far this season The junior righty threw 7 1/3 strong innings, giving up just one run on four hits while striking out a career-high 12 batters. Minnesota could not keep its momentum going as the Gophers lost 6-4 to Creighton the following day. Luke Rasmussen had a good start for the Gophers, throwing six strong innings, but the Minnesota bullpen failed down the stretch. The Gophers finished up the Metrodome Tournament with another 6-4 loss, this time falling to South Dakota State in 10 innings. Oakes started well, giving up just two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, while striking out four. Kyle Knudson had a solid 3-for-4 day at the plate, but the GophersâÄô bullpen gave up two runs in the 10th inning that the Minnesota bats could not answer. Alabama Series The Gophers traveled to Alabama for a mid-week series against the Crimson Tide, which began Tuesday. Minnesota dropped the first game 5-4 as Alabama jumped on Minnesota starter Austin Lubinsky for three early runs. The Gophers came back to take a 4-3 lead as Nick OâÄôShea hit 2-for-4 with 2 runs scored, but Alabama scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for the walk-off 5-4 win. The losing streak reached four as the Gophers lost again to Alabama, this time 9-4. Phil Isaksson had a good start for the Gophers, throwing 5 2/3 innings, while giving up two earned runs. But the Crimson Tide scored five runs in the seventh inning off relievers Scott Fern and Cullen Sexton to put the game away. Samford Series Minnesota bounced back in the first game against Samford with a solid 9-4 win. Gophers starter Allen Bechstein threw a career-high five innings, giving up just two earned runs on five hits. A two-run double by Pettersen in the fifth inning gave Minnesota a 4-3 lead. A two-run home run by OâÄôShea in the sixth helped Minnesota cruise to a win. The bats continued to produce for Minnesota in their second game against Samford, but the pitching staff fell apart as the Bulldogs won 14-9. Samford tagged Rosin for eight runs in 5 1/3 innings. Pettersen, Kvasnicka and Knudson each had three hits, but it wasnâÄôt enough as Samford piled on the runs. Minnesota wasted another strong pitching performance by Oakes in the final game against Samford as he threw six innings, giving up only one run on four hits while striking out four. But the GophersâÄô bats remained silent as they fell 2-1.