Gophers lose fourth straight game

Minnesota fell 3-1 to SDSU on Wednesday. It will look to regroup this weekend against Northwestern.

Minnesotas Kurt Schlangen was 1-for-3 Wednesday against South Dakota State in Brookings South Dakota.

Hannah Strickland, Daily File Photo

Minnesota’s Kurt Schlangen was 1-for-3 Wednesday against South Dakota State in Brookings South Dakota.

by Samuel Gordon

After Sunday’s loss to Ohio State, Gophers head coach John Anderson stressed the importance of the leadoff man getting on base.

And on Wednesday, they did just that — six out of nine times — but to no avail. Minnesota fell to South Dakota State 3-1. Outstanding and timely SDSU defense limited the Gophers’ scoring chances.

After winning eight games in a row, Minnesota (17-17) has lost its last four.

“It seemed like when we did square the ball up, it went right at guys,” Anderson said. “They had five or six plays they made on defense that just took away all our momentum.”

Jackrabbits center fielder Aaron Machbitz won the game for his club with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Gophers’ Andy Henkemeyer held down center field in place of the injured Troy Larson, who sprained his ankle in Saturday’s loss to Ohio State.

Henkemeyer’s RBI-groundout in the fifth inning scored Minnesota’s lone run. He was 0-for-3 on the afternoon. Kurt Schlangen started in left field for Henkemeyer and batted 1-for-3.

Anderson said after the game that Schlangen, who normally plays catcher, will likely remain in the outfield until Larson returns.

SDSU used six pitchers to subdue Minnesota’s bats, limiting the Gophers to just five hits.

Minnesota freshman southpaw Jordan Jess started and threw 3.1 shutout innings. Dustin Klabunde took over for him in the fourth and allowed three straight singles to surrender the game’s first run.

The Gophers tied the game in the next frame. David Bettenburg walked to start the inning, and Ryan Abrahamson followed with a single. Two batters later, Henkemeyer grounded out to the second baseman and drove in Bettenburg.

After Machbitz went deep in the sixth inning, the Gophers failed to generate any viable chances the rest of the way.

“It just seemed like when we did do something positive on offense, we couldn’t get a break,” Anderson said. “That’s baseball sometimes.”

Minnesota will shift its focus to Big Ten play this weekend with a three-game set against Northwestern.

The Wildcats (10-19) and the Gophers have both lost their last four games, and Anderson said he expects to get Northwestern’s best punch.

“They’re going to come in here like we are,” he said. “They got swept last weekend, and so did we. We’ve got to try to win a series here and get back on track.”

Minnesota’s 3-3 Big Ten record has it tied for fifth place with Michigan State and Illinois.

The Wildcats are last in the conference with a 3-6 conference record.