Indiana won’t be pushover in Minn. Big Ten opener

The Gophers split last year’s series with the Hoosiers at the end of the season.

by Nick Gerhardt

Minnesota put the kibosh on a 14-game winning streak Wednesday and is now faced with another hot team this weekend.

The Gophers beat Missouri 12-5 Wednesday to hand the Tigers their third defeat of the season, and will now play a winning Indiana team.

Minnesota (10-9 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) opens the Big Ten schedule with a four game set that begins tonight at 6:35 p.m. at the Metrodome against the Hoosiers (10-7 overall, 0-0 Big Ten), who have won their last five games.

Indiana finished on the bottom in the Big Ten last season, but played the Gophers in the final series of the regular season.

All four games of that set were decided by three runs or less, and the Hoosiers split the series with Minnesota.

“We’ve got another quality opponent coming in here,” junior third baseman Nate Hanson said. “Indiana is a very young team, a very good team.”

The Hoosiers return six starters from last year’s team and feature only nine upperclassmen on its roster.

The strength of Indiana remains with its freshmen and sophomores, highlighted by sophomore left-hander Matt Bashore.

Bashore enters the series with a 2-2 record and a 1.62 ERA in five starts.

“He’s going to be a quality Division I pitcher in the Big Ten,” Gophers head coach John Anderson said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us to score some runs against him.”

Minnesota has struggled against left-handers this season, but the lineup has turned a new leaf recently, evidenced by their victory over Missouri.

“We hadn’t seen a whole lot of lefties in practice leading up to the year,” junior center fielder Matt Nohelty said. “I think guys are getting comfortable and getting their confidence up against lefties.”

Gophers hitters faced a left handed starter Wednesday, and scored three runs off him as the team collected a total of 18 hits.

The biggest spark for the offense has come from the top of the order with Nohelty, sophomore left fielder Eric Decker and Hanson.

“I think we have a better idea of how people are trying to pitch us and get us out,” head coach John Anderson said. “They’re making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat, and that’s just experience.”

Nohelty continues to set the table for the Minnesota offense with his .419 batting average.

“At the top of the order we kind of take it upon ourselves to try to get things going early on,” Nohelty said. “We try to set the tone.”

Decker has four consecutive multi-hit games and has raised his average to .310 on the year.

“Eric Decker has given a spark, no question about it,” head coach John Anderson said. “He finds some way to impact the game, whether with his speed or his athleticism. He’s learning how to hit at this level.”

With Nohelty and Decker on base frequently, RBI opportunities have increased for No. 3 hitter Hanson. He collected his first RBI of the season against the Tigers and his success has fueled the team.

“Nate Hanson is finally getting some success,” Anderson said. “We’re making progress.”