Scanlon scores Big Ten award

Sarah Mitchell

For the second consecutive week, Gophers infielder Matt Scanlon earned Big Ten player of the week honors. Minnesota (31-10 overall, 12-4 in the Big Ten) defeated Minnesota State-Mankato last Wednesday before taking three of four games at Indiana over the weekend, and Scanlon was key in his team’s success.
“He’s very deserving,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “It’s important that after he put up good numbers two weeks ago he had yet another good week to follow. It’s a good sign for Matt.”
The infielder went 12-for-22, including 14 RBIs, three doubles, a triple and two home runs. Scanlon’s three-run dinger in game two on Saturday gave Minnesota a 9-2 lead and proved to be the game winner as the Gophers defeated the Hoosiers 9-7.
His consistency at the plate has carried Scanlon to an 18-game hitting streak, and the junior has reached base safely in 31 of 32 games. In the team’s past 10 games, Scanlon has recorded 29 RBIs, four home runs and six doubles.
“I’ve been seeing the ball really well,” Scanlon said.
As for his RBI stash, Scanlon credits the rest of the Gophers lineup.
“It seems like every time I’m up, there are guys on second and third,” Scanlon said. “You have to give credit to the bottom of the order for getting on base.”

Bursting the bubble
Heading into the series finale at Indiana, it seemed as though the Gophers were guaranteed a win with pitcher Chadd Clarey in the starting rotation. Minnesota had an 8-0 record with Clarey on the mound.
But while the Gophers looked to sweep the Hoosiers Sunday and remain two games behind conference-leading Ohio State, Clarey (4-1) took his first loss of the season as the Gophers were defeated 11-10.
“He had an off day,” Anderson said. “He wasn’t throwing many first-pitch strikes. You can’t be effective when you get behind in the count.”
After transferring from Des Moines Area Community College this season, Clarey earned the fourth spot in the Gophers starting rotation, which was left open after Ben Birk was medically redshirted for the season. Clarey has a 6.55 ERA and Anderson expects the junior to improve over time.
“He’s gaining confidence with each positive experience he’s had,” Anderson said. “I think we’re over the hump with him. But I think a year from now he’ll be a better pitcher. His best pitching days are still ahead of him.”

Around the Big Ten
The Gophers won their latest Big Ten series, but the team still fell another game behind conference-leading Ohio State (the Buckeyes swept Penn State over the weekend). With three conference series remaining, the Buckeyes’ success is out of Minnesota’s reach.
Due to weather conditions and a limited amount of weekends, the Big Ten season is only seven weeks long. With 10 teams in the league, the Gophers don’t face two of their conference foes for two consecutive seasons. This time it’s Penn State and Ohio State.
“So many things in this league don’t come down to strikes, throwing the ball and hitting the ball,” Anderson said. “There is no common ground that determines who is at the top of the league. I’m a believer that we need to go back to divisions.”
Anderson said one way to correct this would be to divide the conference into two divisions, each consisting of five teams. At the end of the regular season the top two teams from each division would compete at the Big Ten tournament. But because of conflicting ideas among the coaches, divisions aren’t likely to be formed anytime soon.
“There are so many factors that are out of our control,” Anderson said. “When you think about those factors you get frustrated and start to lose focus of what’s most important. That’s how we are doing.”