Gophers take 2 of 3 in final road series

Minnesota has a narrow lead atop the Big Ten with two series left.

Minnesota infielder Ryan Abrahamson takes a pitch Tuesday, March 12, 2013, at the Metrodome.

Emily Dunker

Minnesota infielder Ryan Abrahamson takes a pitch Tuesday, March 12, 2013, at the Metrodome.

by Samuel Gordon

As the Gophers baseball season winds down, the magnitude of each Big Ten series revs up.

In that context, winning two of three games in a road series is a very good weekend. But the Gophers’ loss to last-place Penn State (2-15 Big Ten) on Sunday kept them from extending their lead in the conference standings.

Minnesota (11-4 Big Ten) beat Penn State on Friday and Saturday before losing in extra innings Sunday to wrap up its final road series in conference play.

Minnesota is a game ahead of Indiana (12-5) and Nebraska (12-5) in the loss column for first place in the conference.

Gophers players and coaches shrugged off Sunday’s loss and seemed optimistic about their performance against the Nittany Lions.

“Anytime you win a series, it’s a positive,” head coach John Anderson said.

The Gophers looked like they would sweep Penn State on Sunday in the sixth inning when sophomore Mark Tatera broke a 1-1 tie with an RBI triple.

Junior catcher Matt Halloran’s RBI double extended Minnesota’s lead to 3-1.

But the Nittany Lions responded in the bottom half of the inning. They took advantage of a misplayed bunt by senior third baseman Ryan Abrahamson and scored two runs as a result.

“It came down to not making a couple plays,” Abrahamson said.

Minnesota loaded the bases in the top of the 10th inning as well, but it couldn’t capitalize.

“We couldn’t get a big hit today,” Anderson said.

Penn State scored in the bottom of the 10th on a fielder’s choice.

The Gophers dominated the first two games of the series. They cruised to an 11-2 win Friday behind the offense and another strong outing by junior ace Tom Windle.

Windle (6-2) scattered seven hits throughout seven innings and allowed two runs, both unearned. He got all the run support he needed in the Gophers’ six-run fourth inning.

Senior right fielder Kurt Schlangen was 2-for-4 with three RBIs on Friday. Halloran had an RBI-double. Freshman second baseman Connor Schaefbauer, batting leadoff for a second straight series, went 2-for-3, walked twice and scored a pair of runs.

Anderson said having Schaefbauer at the top of the lineup “adds a little more balance.”

Former leadoff man Andy Henkeyemer moved to the third spot in the lineup, and Anderson said the Gophers have “found a lineup we liked.”

A similar lineup pushed home 12 more hits Saturday in a 7-3 Gophers victory. Abrahamson was 3-for-5 with an RBI. Sophomore shortstop Michael Handel went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs.

“All the guys in the lineup are in a spot where we can be successful,” Abrahamson said.

Junior righty Alec Crawford allowed two runs in seven innings Saturday.