Gophers’ bid for sweep falls short

Sarah Mitchell

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Gophers baseball coach John Anderson said defense would decide where No. 30 Minnesota (19-7 overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten) stood after its Big Ten opening weekend. The veteran coach was partially right.
A lack of both clean fielding and timely hits in the series opener cost the preseason pick for conference champions a four game sweep at Purdue (11-14, 1-3). Minnesota recorded one error, but also stranded 14 runners on base, in a 6-4 losing effort on Friday.
Despite the defeat, the Gophers rebounded to take the next three games by scores of 5-2, 9-2 and 9-2.
“Friday we lost the game because we didn’t make some plays defensively. The last three games we did,” Anderson said. “I told the team on Friday that I wasn’t so concerned about the loss, but that I was more concerned about how they would respond to it. They bounced back, though.”
After recovering in time for Saturday’s twinbill, the Gophers entered the series finale needing a win to stay with the conference leaders.
Sunday’s game started as a pitchers duel. Junior college transfer Chadd Clarey (2-0) took the mound for Minnesota, hurling against his first Big Ten opponent and the Boilermakers starter, southpaw David Gassner (3-2), squared off.
Gassner broke first. He faced just ten Gophers through the first three innings, but the rapid pace changed when freshman Scott Howard recorded the game’s first hit, a single to center field to lead off the fourth. Two Minnesota hitters later — Robb Quinlan and Matt Scanlon both singled — Howard lit up the scoreboard with the first run of the day.
Quinlan and Scanlon also crossed the plate in the top of the fourth, giving Clarey a three-run cushion. Clarey remained in control until he left the mound after six innings of work, surrendering one run without giving up a walk.
The right-hander was shaky in recent outings. Anderson said Clarey’s decision to put mechanics aside and concentrate solely on retiring the batter made the pitcher successful.
“I kept the ball down, got ahead in the count and got the ground balls,” Clarey said. “I guess my biggest thing is that I didn’t walk anybody. I didn’t put that extra runner on base.”
Gophers pitcher Frank Wagner received the bullpen call in the bottom of the seventh to relieve Clarey. Minnesota led 9-1 behind a two-run double from catcher Jeremy Negen and a solo home run from designated hitter Josh Holthaus.
In his 11th appearance, Wagner kept the Boilermakers’ bats silent. The left-hander allowed just one run, Purdue second baseman David Blomberg scored in the seventh after reaching on a single to right field, while securing the series win.
Losing the series was especially devastating to first-year Boilermakers coach Doug Schreiber.
“I think it’s good that we’re disappointed,” Schreiber said. “After the win on Friday we put our heads up a little bit and started to worry about the equation — you know, this team won and now this is what we have to do to be at the top. They started thinking about other situations instead of worrying about the next game.”
Purdue heads to Indiana next weekend looking to get its season back on track. Meanwhile, the Gophers will remain on the road with a four-game stand at Iowa.
“If you can just keep winning series’ in our league, you’ve just got a chance in the end,” Anderson said. “Splits don’t make up any ground.”

AB R H RBI
R.Brosseau 17 5 5 2
Howard 14 2 7 3
Amundson 6 2 2 0
Arlt 14 3 3 4
Quinlan 17 2 3 1
Scanlon 16 3 3 3
Holthaus 10 2 3 2
Negen 15 3 2 5
Kennedy 13 2 4 3
M.Brosseau 7 0 3 2
Devore 0 1 0 0
Hannahan 6 2 5 2
Totals 135 27 40 27