Gophers take collective step back after three weeks of good baseball

Derek Wetmore

The Gophers baseball team dropped 2-of-3 games this weekend to Penn State after scoring just five runs but remain in second place in the Big Ten standings.

Minnesota (20-20 overall, 12-9 Big Ten) was on a tear entering the series with the Nittany Lions, winning eight of its last nine Big Ten games.

That momentum came to an abrupt stop Friday as pitching, defense and a meek offense faltered en route to a 7-0 defeat.

Opposing pitcher Steven Hill threw a complete-game, four-hit shutout.

GophersâÄô starter TJ Oakes took the loss after he surrendered seven runs (five earned) in 5.2 innings. Head coach John Anderson said he did not pitch as poorly as his final stat line indicated.

Shortstop AJ Pettersen made two errors and said that he felt he should accept some blame for letting the game get out of hand.

âÄúI had two errors that probably shouldnâÄôt have happened. The defense just wasnâÄôt there,âÄù he said. âÄúEven though we werenâÄôt scoring runs, we didnâÄôt execute the fundamentals the way we normally do.

âÄúI take that one on me for sure and they scored seven runs when they maybe should have only scored two or three.âÄù

The Gophers fought back from a two-run deficit to win SaturdayâÄôs game 3-2.

After Phil Isaksson gave up a two-run homerun in the second inning, he settled down. He ultimately lasted 4.2 innings and did not factor in the decision.

He was relieved by freshman lefty Tom Windle. Windle (5-2) picked up the win and has been torrid of late.  

Petterson said WindleâÄôs slider has been unhittable in recent outings and now sits around 86 miles-per-hour. He continued the trend Saturday with 2.2 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief before handing the game over to Scott Matyas for his 10th save.

Matyas, who set the Big Ten career record for saves last weekend, notched another by pitching 1.2 innings of shutout ball while striking out three.

Matyas has been the anchor at the back end of what has been one of the better bullpens in the conference for most of the season.

Minnesota dropped the rubber game of the series 4-2, struggling once again to put up sufficient run support for its starter.

Penn State hit three home runs and the Gophers only managed two runs, which brought their weekend total to five.  

âÄúThatâÄôs been our Achilles heel all year. WeâÄôve shown some moments of improvement but we surely havenâÄôt been consistent. ItâÄôs something that continues to be our biggest detriment and it affected us this weekend too,âÄù Anderson said.

Starter Austin Lubinsky pitched well, according to Anderson. He went seven innings and gave up four runs to go with four walks and four strikeouts.

âÄúAustin did his job,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúHe gave us a chance to win, we just couldnâÄôt score five runs for him.âÄù

Minnesota loaded the bases with nobody out in the third inning and failed to plate a single run.

âÄúWeâÄôre good enough on the mound to compete with anybody in our league but weâÄôve got to score more consistently,âÄù Anderson said.

The team took a collective step backward in all aspects of the game over the weekend, but Anderson said he hopes his team can have a short memory.

TheyâÄôll need it with a quick turnaround âÄì the Gophers play a double-header against Ohio State this Thursday and close out the series Friday.

Each weekend starter will pitch on shorter-than-normal rest as Minnesota looks to get back to the brand of baseball that vaulted it to second in the Big Ten in the past month.

âÄúHopefully we can get the bats going for the end of the season here and make sure weâÄôve got them rolling around for every game as each game becomes more and more important,âÄù Pettersen said.