Sweep of Michigan extends Gophers’ winning streak to seven

Minnesota swept Michigan in the first weekend of conference play.

Samuel Gordon

 

Minnesota swept Michigan in its first weekend of conference play with blowout wins Friday and Saturday and a walk-off, 4-3 win Sunday at the Metrodome.

The Gophers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead Sunday, and the Wolverines struggled to muster any offense for much of the afternoon. Late in the game, however, they battled back, tied the game and forced extra innings.

But Minnesota catcher Matt Halloran didn’t feel like sticking around very long. He crushed Matt Ogden’s offering into the right field bleachers in the bottom of the 10th inning to clinch the Gophers’ seventh straight victory.

“I put a good swing on a pitch up and in a little bit and got enough of it,” Halloran said. “Just seeing it go over the fence is unbelievable.”

Sunday’s win clinched a three-game sweep for Minnesota, its first Big Ten home sweep since 2009.

The Gophers have caught fire, and its previously dormant offense has come to life in the past week and a half.

Gophers right fielder Bobby Juan powered Minnesota past Michigan on Friday.

He was 2-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run, a triple and four RBIs. Third baseman Dan Olinger was 2-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs.

Minnesota starter TJ Oakes was phenomenal in what he said was his best outing of the season. Oakes (5-1) threw a season-high 113 pitches, had a career-high nine strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter in seven innings.

“Opening Big Ten, you’re going to be amped up and excited for it,” Oakes said. “I think I brought out my best stuff and showed it.”

A four-run third inning, keyed by Juan’s home run, vaulted the Gophers ahead of the Wolverines and propelled them to the win.

With runners on the corners and two outs, Juan laced a line drive directly at Michigan right fielder Michael O’Neill.

O’Neill appeared to lose the ball in the lights, and it bounced past him and rolled all the way to the wall. Juan scurried around the bases for his second-career home run.

“I read his body language. It looked like he had it real easy,” Juan said. “Right at the end he threw up his glove like he lost it in the lights. I just took off.”

The Wolverines scored a pair of runs in the top of the ninth inning off Tom Windle, but Kevin Kray weathered the storm and closed the game for his fifth save of the year.

The Gophers parlayed the momentum from Friday’s win into a 9-4 blowout victory on Saturday.

Juan and Olinger both went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs. Minnesota roughed up Michigan starter Bobby Brosnahan for four runs in the first and second innings.

“Guys are really seeing the ball right now,” Olinger said. “It’s nice now that when we have a chance to knock in some runs, we’re having some quality at-bats.”

Brosnahan gave up 10 hits and eight earned runs in only 1.1 innings. Gophers starter DJ Snelten, on the other hand, was fabulous.

Snelten allowed two runs on five hits in seven strong innings to improve to 3-1 on the season.

Minnesota was in control for much of Sunday’s series finale. The Gophers plated two runs in the second inning and one in the third, and starting pitcher Austin Lubinsky allowed only one run in six innings.

Dustin Klabunde took over in the seventh inning with Minnesota up 3-1, but he couldn’t protect the lead.

He gave up a leadoff double and a single and hit center fielder Patrick Biondi to load up the bases. The Gophers summoned talented freshman hurler Ben Meyer, and he minimized the damage.

Meyer induced a double play and successfully executed a pitchout for the third out but not before the Wolverines were able to tie the game with an infield single.

Minnesota ran into a jam in the top of the 10th inning, too. But middle infielders Michael Handel and Matt Puhl turned a key double play to help relieve Drew Ghelfi and escape unscathed.

Halloran won the game a few minutes later. He was 3-for-5 on the afternoon.

“It’s starting to look a little more each day how it’s supposed to look in this program,” head coach John Anderson said. “I’m proud of the guys.”

The Gophers will tussle with Augsburg on Tuesday before traveling to Ohio State on Thursday.

Windle’s return

Windle had missed the last few weeks with tendonitis in his throwing arm.

Anderson said Windle, who began the season as a starter, will work from the bullpen to build up his pitch count before any possible return to the rotation.