After reaching base this past weekend some Gophers baseball players might have felt like Mary Ann, the Professor, Ginger or even Gilligan. In their four-game series against Purdue at the Metrodome, Gophers batters stranded 40 runners.
While offensive execution was lacking, the Gophers salvaged a split with the Boilermakers after dropping the first two games of the series and improved their record to 18-6 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten. But with a few more timely hits, Minnesota might have come away with an extra win to start the Big Ten season.
Head coach John Anderson said the lack of production with runners in scoring position played a major role in the Gophers’ struggles.
“I thought Friday and Saturday one of the things we weren’t able to get was the one more hit to have the big inning, especially with two outs,” Anderson said. “We had opportunities with guys on third with less than two outs and we didn’t get the ball in play. We really struggled the first three games of the series.”
Jason Dobis took the loss Friday night, as Purdue won 5-3. In pitching a complete game, Dobis surrendered 10 hits and five runs while striking out six and walking two. Offensively, the Gophers combined for nine hits and three runs.
“They just got one more hit than we did. They hit the ball hard at us and got ground balls to go through. We had a chance in the ninth inning. We had our number four hitter up and two guys on. (Mark Groebner) even got a good pitch, but just hit it to the third baseman.”
Anderson said a shoulder injury to the team’s number one pitcher, Ben Birk, might have affected the outcome of the game.
The team split Saturday’s doubleheader, as the Gophers lost the first game 7-3, but won the second game 6-4.
Similar to Friday night’s game, there was an absence of offensive production in game one on Saturday. The Gophers managed five hits, one of those being Mark Groebner’s fourth home run of the season.
Offensive production more than doubled in the nightcap as the Gophers combined for 11 hits. Kelly Werner, who pitched his first complete game in his Gopher career, allowed seven hits and four runs while striking out six and only walking one.
“I thought we were very passive the first game on Saturday. I thought we were back on our heels a little bit,” Anderson said. “We want to play aggressively. We want them to react to us, versus us reacting to them. I thought we played a little on Saturday like we were hoping to get the loss.”
Clutch hitting finally made its appearance on Sunday. Run production started in inning one as the Gophers scored three runs after there were two out. After eight innings at the plate, the team recorded 15 hits and beat Purdue 11-6.
Dan McGrath took the win for the Gophers and improved to 4-0 on the season.
Offensively, the Gophers capitalized with runners on base. Third baseman Matt Scanlon said that was the difference between Sunday’s win and the previous games in the series.
“We got our hits with two out and runners on, and we weren’t doing this earlier on in the series,” Scanlon said.
The Gophers hit the road this week to play one game against Northern Iowa on Wednesday night. If weather permits, the Gophers will host a four-game series against Iowa this weekend at Siebert Field.
Anderson isn’t predicting significant changes to the lineup or pitching rotation, although he did say Birk probably won’t be back to full strength for another month.
“We didn’t want to split, but we started off slow in the series. We didn’t execute,” Scanlon said. “The last couple of games there was obviously some execution and that’s why we won those games. We definitely don’t want to split. We want to win three or four games.”
Player AB R H RBIArlt 16 2 3 1
Scanlon 16 3 5 1
Quinlan 15 4 8 1
Groebner 11 4 5 4
Selander 16 5 4 2
Holthaus 10 1 2 1
M. Brosseau 10 1 3 3
Negen 11 0 3 0
Devore 12 1 3 2
Horton 4 1 2 3
R. Brosseau 5 1 2 1
Egan 1 0 0 0
Beaulieu 1 0 0 0
Team 128 23 40 19