Gophers pitchers lead team to two wins

Minnesota’s starters gave up only four earned runs in 17.2 innings of work.

Minnesota pitcher Ben Meyer pitches against Western Illinois on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at the Metrodome.

Bridget Bennett, Daily File Photo

Minnesota pitcher Ben Meyer pitches against Western Illinois on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at the Metrodome.

Betsy Helfand

The Gophers gave up 24 runs last weekend, but this weekend, the team bounced back to win two of three games against Louisiana Tech.

Minnesota starting pitchers Alec Crawford, Jordan Jess and Ben Meyer gave up a combined four earned runs in 17.2 innings of work.

The Gophers split a doubleheader Saturday, winning the first game 4-2 in extra innings before losing the second game 3-2. Minnesota closed out the series with a 6-1 victory Sunday.

The Gophers were scheduled to play Friday, but they had mechanical difficulties flying out of Minneapolis and had to connect through New York City and Dallas before bussing to Ruston, La.

“It was the first time I’ve ever gone 3,000 miles by airplane and bus to play three games in 24 hours,” head coach John Anderson said.

Anderson said he was proud of the way the team handled the situation.

“[There was] no complaining, no whining,” he said. “They showed up and played their hearts out for three games with very little turnover in terms of time to get [themselves] back together.”

This was the Gophers’ third straight weekend of back-and-forth travel to start the season. They have already played games in Arizona, Florida and Louisiana.

Minnesota second baseman Connor Schaefbauer said the travel schedule has been difficult, but it’s not something the team can’t overcome.

The Gophers showed that on the field this weekend.

Anderson said Schaefbauer, who went 6-for-12 and stole five bases in the three-game series, set the table for the team all weekend. Schaefbauer and first baseman Dan Olinger had two hits apiece in each game.

“I think we’re seeing the ball a lot better,” Schaefbauer said. “I think at the plate, we’re getting a lot more comfortable and putting good swings on balls.”

Gophers senior Bobby Juan, junior Mark Tatera and junior Jake Bergren also added multi-hit games for the Gophers this weekend.

“We did a better job having good at-bats up and down the lineup,” Anderson said.

In the first game of the series, Tatera hit a two-out, two-run double in the 10th inning to give Minnesota a lead it didn’t relinquish.

Gophers senior pitcher Kevin Kray retired the only batter he saw to pick up the save in the first game of the series.

Minnesota had good pitching efforts all around this weekend. Anderson said there was more focus from this pitching staff in practice last week.

“[We were] just kind of working on the fundamentals, refocusing and making sure we were not taking pitches off,” Meyer said.

The pitching staff was behind in the count too much last weekend, he said, but did better with that this weekend.

Meyer picked up the victory Sunday. He gave up just two hits and one run in seven innings.

The Gophers will return to the diamond next weekend in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in the Chanticleer Classic.