Problems add up for struggling baseball

Anthony Maggio

A list of what didn’t go wrong for Minnesota’s baseball team might be shorter than one of what did this weekend in its series with Illinois.

Injuries, walks, lack of timely hitting, inexperience, errors and weather all contributed as the Gophers dropped two of three games to the Illini in the first series played at Siebert Field this season.

First: the errors.

In game one on Friday, Minnesota committed two errors in the top of the first inning, leading to five Illinios (21-10, 7-8 Big Ten) runs, three which were unearned.

“We don’t have strong enough pitching and strong enough offense to overcome bad defense,” coach John Anderson said.

Second: the timely hitting.

Despite the four errors committed by the Gophers in Friday’s game, they still had a chance to win.

Minnesota (16-20, 8-6) fought back to within a run in the fourth inning, but over the course of the game left nine runners on base – six in scoring position – sealing its 9-6 defeat.

“We couldn’t get that one more hit,” Anderson said.

Third: the injuries.

Sophomore starting pitcher Jay Gagner has missed the last two weekends because of an injured left elbow. Gagner won’t return as a starter for at least two more weeks.

In the Gophers’ first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, sophomore starter Josh Krogman left the contest after only an inning and a third because of pain in his right elbow. Minnesota eventually lost the contest 7-5.

“I don’t have a clue what happened,” Krogman said. “I got through warm ups fine the second inning and my arm felt fine. Then the first pitch really hurt it. It was downhill after that. Every pitch I threw it got a little bit worse. By the last pitch I threw I don’t think I could’ve thrown another one.”

Krogman’s status for next weekend is uncertain.

Fourth: the inexperience.

Krogman’s injury forced Minnesota to go with redshirt freshman Luke Beresford out of the bullpen. After giving up three runs in two innings, Beresford was pulled for true freshman Tim Theis.

After giving up three runs in two and a third innings, Theis was yanked for sophomore Jeff Moen, who gave up one run while finishing off the final inning and a third.

Fifth: the walks.

The Gophers entered the game tied for second in the conference for fewest walks (24) in Big Ten play.

In Saturday’s first game loss, Minnesota pitchers walked 10 batters in seven innings. Coupled with the two errors and seven runners left on base – three in scoring position – the Gophers contributed to their own demise.

“We had an error or two and we walked 10 guys, so no one really stepped it up,” second baseman Luke Appert said. “I don’t think they beat us that game, we beat ourselves.”

In the second game of the twin bill, Minnesota looked like a completely different team.

Staff ace C.J. Woodrow threw a complete game, allowing only one run on two hits while striking out four, leading the team to a 9-1 victory.

“We had to set the tone, be aggressive right away and go after them,” Woodrow said. “We couldn’t be scared, we had to go after them.”

Appert’s bat came to life in the second game as well. Appert hit two home runs – one a grand slam – en route to six RBI.

But trailing by a game in what was scheduled for a four game series, the Gophers needed a win Sunday to earn a split on the weekend.

Finally: the weather.

Minnesota missed a game against Penn State due to weather last weekend. Another lost contest would only cause problems, leaving the Gophers with missed opportunities to improve on their middle-of-the-pack 8-6 conference record.

But consistent with Minnesota’s weekend, Mother Nature delivered a helping of snow to further impede the Gophers conference title quest.

“It’s tough to win the league if you lose a series,” Appert said on Saturday. “And that’s our main goal. Especially at home, you don’t want to lose a series. If you lose a series, you’re in trouble.”

Anthony Maggio covers baseball and
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