Windle’s no-hitter highlights sweep

Tom Windle threw the Gophers’ first no-hitter since 1993.

Minnesota's Ben Meyer pitches against Western Illinois on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at the Metrodome.

Bridget Bennett

Minnesota’s Ben Meyer pitches against Western Illinois on Saturday, March 9, 2013, at the Metrodome.

Samuel Gordon

A no-hitter, a pair of starters’ returns from injuries and a three-game sweep highlighted a phenomenal weekend for Minnesota baseball.

The Gophers swept Western Illinois in impressive fashion this weekend to improve to 10-5 on the season.

Junior lefthander Tom Windle threw a no-hitter in Friday’s 3-0 victory — the program’s first since 1993. He needed just 94 pitches to do it.

Gophers head coach John Anderson, who’s been with Minnesota since 1981, said Windle’s no-hitter is one of the more impressive pitching performances he’s seen.

“He set the tone [for the weekend] with the win on Friday,” Anderson said. “He pitched outstanding from the first inning to the last pitch of the game.”

Windle struck out eight and walked one.

“I wasn’t really thinking about [throwing a no-hitter] too much,” he said. “Between innings I was just trying to follow the same routine and put up another zero.”

Windle struck out the final batter he faced, and teammates stormed the mound to celebrate.

Sophomore righty Ben Meyer, perhaps inspired by Windle’s dominance, followed suit with another stellar pitching performance Saturday.

Meyer allowed one run in eight innings en route to a 5-1 victory. Meyer has pitched eight innings in each of his last two outings.

The Gophers’ offense scored three runs in the first inning, which was ample support for Meyer.

Left fielder Troy Larson went 2-for-5 and drove in a pair of runs. Right fielder Bobby Juan went 1-for-3 with two RBIs. Every Gophers starter had a base hit.

Minnesota welcomed back a pair of key players Saturday, too. Catcher Matt Halloran and left fielder Andy Henkemeyer both returned from shoulder injuries.

Halloran started the game and went 1-for-3 as the catcher. Henkemeyer was a pinch hitter late in the game.

Henkemeyer returned to his usual lead-off spot Sunday as the designated hitter and went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Anderson said their returns from injury were a big boost and a key factor in securing the sweep.

On Sunday, starter Jordan Jess allowed a pair of runs in the first inning and a third run in the third
inning.

Jess passed the baton to reliever Lance Thonvold, who kept Western Illinois hitters at bay for 3.2 innings.

Minnesota scored three runs in the fourth inning and tacked on an insurance run in the seventh. The Gophers’ bullpen shut down Leathernecks hitters the rest of the way. Closer Billy Soule picked up his fifth save of the season.

The Gophers have won eight of their last 10 games.

Offensively, Minnesota tallied 10 base hits Saturday and Sunday.

“Guys are having better at-bats and getting more confident at the plate,” Henkemeyer said.

The Gophers will have Monday off to prepare for a midweek series with Nebraska-Omaha.