Gophers split in State College

Minnesota won 11-7 Sunday to salvage a four-game split with Penn State.

by Matt Perkins

The names highlighting the box scores for Minnesota’s baseball team week-in and week-out have been the same – Matt Fornasiere and John Gaub.

Gaub, a sophomore reliever, and Fornasiere, a junior shortstop, have been consistent contributors to the Gophers’ hot start in Big Ten play.

In a four-game series split at Penn State this weekend, Fornasiere continued his consistent hitting despite losing his hitting streak, and Gaub had shut-down performances in extended work.

The Gophers (17-15, 9-3 Big Ten) came out of the weekend with a 13-5 loss Friday, a 5-3 win and a 7-5 loss Saturday and an 11-7 win Sunday in State College, Pa., largely thanks to those efforts.

“Those two guys are successful because they take the good and the bad the same way,” coach John Anderson said. “They don’t let emotions get the best of them.”

In the series opener Friday, Penn State snapped senior Matt Loberg’s 25-scoreless-innings streak in the bottom of the first.

But Fornasiere and Gaub wouldn’t let Penn Sate (19-11, 7-5) intimidate the Gophers by roughing up their ace.

Minnesota bounced back in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader as Anderson decided to move Fornasiere from leadoff back to the third spot, where he started the season.

The move worked out, as Fornasiere again topped the box scores by going 1-for-4 with an RBI and helping the Gophers take a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth.

It was all Gaub from there.

Gaub, who leads the team in appearances (12), earned run average (1.42) and strikeouts (41), struck out the side in the sixth and finished the job with a perfect seventh, picking up his third save of the season.

“He’s got the best stuff, simple as that,” Anderson said. “We thought we would see if he could impact a couple of games for us instead of just one, and he did.”

After a loss in game two of the doubleheader, the Gophers were in danger of losing their first Big Ten series since 2002.

Sunday’s contest saw Fornasiere snap an 18-game hitting streak with a 0-for-6 day, and he ended the weekend 4-for-16 with three RBIs.

But teammate Tony Leseman was there to pick him up Sunday.

Leseman was 2-for-4 with a home run and a career-high four RBIs, helping the Gophers take an 8-7 lead into the eighth inning.

“We stayed within ourselves,” Leseman said. “We knew if we stuck to our game plan, the bats would come around and pick up where the pitchers left off.”

With Gaub lurking in the Minnesota bullpen, the Gophers were able to tack on three more insurance runs and hand the ball over to Gaub for the last two innings with an 11-7 lead.

Gaub stayed in stride, striking out three and giving up only one run in his two innings of work, sealing up a series split.

“(Gaub) is very intimidating,” Fornasiere said. “He comes in and throws hard every time, and has been one of the biggest parts of our team’s success.”