Refigured lineup leads to a couple of wins

Robert Mews

For two games this weekend, Minnesota’s baseball team might have found workable lineups against Missouri State.

For the third game against the Bears (11-9), the Gophers (10-8) changed the lineup once again and found themselves in a 4-3 extra-innings loss.

Although the lineup has been altered for much of the season, in what coach John Anderson said was an attempt to find consistency, the Gophers still overhauled it Sunday one day after exploding for 11 runs.

Of the top-five batters in Sunday’s lineup, four had hits. The bottom part of the order had none.

“Today the bottom half of the lineup didn’t have very many good at-bats,” Anderson said. “To score runs consistently you got to have hitting in the bottom-half of your lineup.”

Consistency in the offense is something the Gophers might have needed to overcome a tight game against the Bears.

“We had a couple of chances at the end there, and we didn’t come up with one more hit,” Anderson said. “We didn’t execute on offense down the stretch.”

With the game tied 4-4 going into the top of the ninth inning, the Gophers had a chance to get on top with the bottom half of the lineup coming up to bat.

Kyle Baran started the inning with a walk. He advanced to second with a sacrifice hit by Joe Maciej. However, the next two batters, Taylor VanderAarde and Tony Leseman, flew out and grounded out, respectively, to end the inning.

Missouri State ended the game in the bottom of the 10th with a Matt Weglarz RBI single.

The Gophers were able to find their offense in the previous two games.

On Saturday, Minnesota had itself another tight contest. After six innings of play, the Gophers were on top 4-3. But offense prevailed when the Bears bullpen made its appearance.

“We knew their bullpen was a little vulnerable looking at their statistics,” outfielder Leseman said. “So, we knew we need to try and get their pitch counts up.”

Minnesota was able to do both. Missouri State starter Scott Carroll left after throwing 105 pitches through the first five innings.

The result of getting into the Bears bullpen was the Gophers, and more importantly the bottom half of the batting order, were able to get runs late.

Minnesota was able to score seven runs in the eighth and ninth inning. Hitters six through nine in the Gophers’ batting order got six of the 14 hits.

Friday’s game was very similar. The Bears bullpen provided the weak link.

After five innings, Missouri State led 3-1. But when Bears starter Brett Sinkbeil left in the sixth, the Gophers responded with three runs.

“It’s really important to try to get to that bullpen,” outfielder Mike Mee said. “I mean, the more pitchers we can use (on offense), the better chance we’re going to have to knock them around.”

And while the bottom half of the lineup struggled Sunday, Anderson said he needs to prod the lineup after last weekend’s injury to third baseman Nate Hanson.

One of the changes resulted in moving Leseman.

“I thought Tony played well and he got some big hits for us,” Anderson said. “He’s a senior and here’s a guy that can move around a little bit.”