Gophers 4-for-4 versus Michigan

Minnesota’s 13-3 win Sunday punctuated an already-huge weekend of baseball.

Matt Perkins

Minnesota’s baseball team had a weekend to come up with a way to tell the country it’s still the best team in the Big Ten.

So the Gophers turned their four-game series against Michigan at the Metrodome into one potent statement, punctuated with an exclamation point Sunday. The Gophers dismantled the Wolverines 13-3, completing a series sweep on the first weekend of Big Ten play.

The Gophers won a pitcher’s duel Friday 1-0 and snatched a 3-2 extra-inning win in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday before winning the second game 6-3.

“It’s about as big as it gets to start the year,” junior first baseman Andy Hunter said. “This is why we play the tough series at the beginning of the year, to get ourselves ready for this weekend. We went out there and showed we were ready.”

But it wasn’t only the fact that the Gophers (11-11, 4-0 Big Ten) swept the Wolverines; it was the way they executed the kill.

They scored 23 runs against a Michigan (16-7, 0-4) pitching staff that had a combined 2.60 ERA coming into the weekend.

They also turned the Wolverines’ 10-game winning streak into a four-game losing streak.

And even more, the Gophers tore down Michigan’s No. 19 ranking, potentially tossing their own name into national consideration despite an 11-11 record.

“It’s a tone-setter for us,” junior shortstop Matt Fornasiere said. “We got on track a little bit with Butler, and this is icing on the cake.”

The Gophers have had an impressive record against Michigan in recent years and haven’t lost a series to the Wolverines since 1998.

Down three games to none, Michigan had hoped to save some face Sunday, and it was starting its ace, Derek Feldkamp.

“The series in the league are decided on Sunday,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “Sunday is always a big game. You can win a series, lose a series or, in this case, prevent yourself from getting swept. But we pride ourselves on coming to the ballpark ready to play all three days, and we’re not going to let up.”

And the Gophers didn’t let up when Feldkamp broke down in the second inning, taking any chance Michigan had of stealing the series finale with him.

Feldkamp came into the game as the Big Ten’s leading pitcher, with a 4-0 record and a 1.29 ERA.

But he fell apart early.

With the score tied 1-1, Gophers catcher Jake Elder led off the second with a single, followed by both Luke MacLean and Tony Leseman being hit by pitches. Feldkamp then hit a third-consecutive batter, Jeremy Chlan, forcing a runner home and giving the Gophers a 2-1 lead.

Still, with the bases loaded and nobody out, Fornasiere singled to right field, scoring two more runs. After Chlan scored on a Feldkamp wild pitch, Hunter singled home Fornasiere with two outs, chasing Feldkamp.

The Gophers went on to score two more for a season-high seven runs in the inning, taking an 8-1 lead in the game.

And they still didn’t let up, scoring five more runs, closing the door on Michigan and locking up the sweep 13-3.

Fornasiere led the way for the Gophers, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored.

But Anderson said it was a weekend of all-around effort.

“The formula is if you can Ö get pitching, defense and timely hitting all at the same time, those are the three ingredients that give you the best chance to win,” Anderson said. “We did all three of those things consistently all through the weekend.”