A step back, and a drop below .500

The Gophers were swept by Michigan State in East Lansing, never able to generate offense against the Spartans’ rotation.

Derek Wetmore

In the first Big Ten road series of the season, the Gophers were swept by Michigan State and failed to generate enough offense overcome the conference-leading Spartans.

The Gophers (10-12, 2-4 Big Ten) fell below .500 with the series sweep and took a step back after winning twoofthree last weekend against Purdue.

With two runs Friday, no runs Saturday and four runs Sunday, the Gophers could not capitalize on a Michigan State pitching staff that allowed 19 runs the previous Sunday to Iowa.

Head coach John Anderson said the SpartansâÄô defense was a real difference in the series, making five outstanding plays with runners on base Friday to smother MinnesotaâÄôs offense.

âÄúBased on how they played against us, they look like theyâÄôre out in front [of the Big Ten] right now, but itâÄôs a long race,âÄù Anderson said.

TJ Oakes (2-4) was tagged with the loss after seven innings of work Friday. Oakes gave up eight hits, including six to Michigan StateâÄôs top three batters, who each went 2-for-4 in the 4-2 win.

Leadoff hitter AJ PettersonâÄôs 22-game hit streak was snapped in the game. Petterson went 0-for-3 but did have a walk in the game, meaning his on-base streak still stands at 35 games, dating back to last season. The last game in which he was not on base was May 9, 2010.

Phil Isaksson (1-3) took the loss in SaturdayâÄôs 2-0 defeat. The Gophers were shut down by Spartans starter Tony Bucciferro (6-1), who threw a complete game shutout, needing only 89 pitches to do so.

Minnesota mustered just five hits against the right-hander, and Isaksson was the hard-luck loser after giving up two runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Starter Austin Lubinsky did not factor in the decision Sunday, with Tom Windle taking the loss out of the bullpen. Anderson said his team made too many mistakes and took itself out of the game Sunday after playing relatively well in the first two games of the series.

Petterson went 3-for-5 in the series finale Sunday, and Dan Olinger, hitting third in a shuffled lineup, went 3-for-4. Justin Gominsky moved up to bat second and Andy Henkemeyer moved down to the sixth slot.

Gominsky trails only Petterson in on-base percentage among Gophers regulars (.408). With his speed and bat control, it made sense to plug Gominsky in for the struggling Henkemeyer (.273 OBP, .208 batting average).

Anderson said he will continue to mix his lineup to try to find the right balance of not only getting runners on base but also being able to drive them in.

Normally a first baseman, Nick OâÄôShea saw time at catcher Friday and Saturday and started there Sunday.

Anderson said itâÄôs something he will continue to do at times to get OlingerâÄôs bat in the lineup, especially with Matt Halloran and Kurt Schlangen struggling offensively thus far.

âÄúWeâÄôre trying to get more offense in the lineup without hurting ourselves too much defensively. WeâÄôre going to keep experimenting with that,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúWeâÄôve got to find some RBI guys.âÄù

He added that freshman Bobby Juan could be an âÄúRBI guyâÄù in the future but needs some more seasoning. Olinger has stepped up in limited time this year and will likely see his role expanded going forward.

âÄúWeâÄôre disappointed that we didnâÄôt win the series and that we didnâÄôt win any games this weekend, but I think the team is optimistic about our ability,âÄù Olinger said. âÄúWeâÄôre a very veteran team with a lot of talent, and I donâÄôt think weâÄôre too concerned. No oneâÄôs jumping off the ship just yet.âÄù

Minnesota will face St. Thomas on Wednesday at Siebert Field. It will then return to Target Field on Friday to host Northwestern in a three-game series.