Gophers hope

Sarah Mitchell

The Gophers baseball team will complete the road portion of the Big Ten regular season schedule this weekend with a four-game stand at Indiana (28-9 overall, 6-6 in the Big Ten).
Minnesota will then finish out the conference season with three consecutive home series, a draw that many in the league would consider a luxury.
But for this team, there’s no place like the road.
“We’ve played really well on the road this year,” senior Aron Amundson said. “They have home field advantage, but we can’t really worry about that. We just have to continue playing on the road the way we have been.”
Two conference road trips are already in the books for Minnesota (28-9 overall, 9-3 in the Big Ten). The Gophers opened the conference season by taking three of four games at Purdue before sweeping Iowa in front of its home crowd.
But then they came home. Hard-hitting Michigan left Siebert Field last weekend with a split in a four-game set marred by Gophers miscues. Ten defensive errors dropped Minnesota from a tie for first with Ohio State to two games back of the Buckeyes.
“I think we’ll have to come out really strong because of what happened last weekend, the way we came out against Michigan,” shortstop Rick Brosseau said. “We need to focus on each game.”
This starts not only with cleaner fielding, but with a better showing on the mound. Against the Wolverines juniors Kelly Werner and Chadd Clarey threw well and Clarey (4-0) earned an 11-5 win on Sunday while Werner (4-2) accepted an 8-3 loss in the series opener. But all control was lost on Saturday.
Starters and relievers struggled to fool Michigan hitters during Saturday’s doubleheader. The Gophers pitching staff combined to surrender 33 hits and 27 runs through 14 innings. Last weekend’s numbers might pose a problem for the upcoming series.
“The better we pitch, the better we play,” Gophers assistant coach Rob Fornasiere said. “So, we get good pitching, we look good. It all starts on the mound.”
Indiana has its own weapons in the bullpen. The Hoosiers pitching staff has a combined 4.15 ERA and could put an end to the long ball threats of Amundson (6) and senior Robb Quinlan (8).
“They are at the top of the league in pitching so we expect their starting pitching to be very strong,” Fornasiere said. “It will be a great challenge for us.”
The real competition of the weekend might be between the Gophers and a different conference opponent. Minnesota needs a series win to catch up to the Buckeyes, who are at home against Penn State.
With three home series looming ahead, this weekend might be the best opportunity for the Gophers to do so.
“What can we do?” Brosseau said. “We need to take it one game at a time. We can only do what we can do.”