The Gophers baseball team, which started 1-6 last season against a tough stretch of southern schools, had considerably better results to start the 1998 season.
After defeating Nebraska 6-3 in 11 innings Sunday, Minnesota (3-0) completed a three-game sweep with a pair of wins, 11-4 and 6-4, Monday against the Huskers. Baseball fundamentals — pitchers throwing strikes and hitters producing timely hits — were evident throughout the wins.
Minnesota’s starting pitchers worked at least six innings in each game, and the team’s staff walked a total of just four batters in the series. The Gophers’ hitters pounded out 39 hits in three games, including a three-run homer by Matt Scanlon to win Sunday’s game and a cluster of base knocks in the team’s four-run seventh and eighth innings in game one of Monday’s doubleheader.
Gophers fielders recovered from a four-error game Sunday to play boot-free ball in both games Monday.
Ben Birk, who had a 0-2 record and 7.36 earned run average as a freshman last season, turned in the best pitching line of the series in game one.
The 6-foot-5 southpaw threw eight innings, allowing five hits and one unearned run. He also struck out 10 batters while walking only two. Birk lost a chance at a win, however, when Nebraska rallied for two runs in the ninth inning off reliever Dan McGrath.
Minnesota’s other starters, Kai Freeman and Jason Dobis, had almost identical lines Monday. Both pitchers allowed four earned runs before being lifted in the seventh inning.
Offensively, Jim Egan contributed a key pinch hit three-run double in game one of Monday’s doubleheader and then went 3-for-3 in game two.
Several other Gophers, including Scanlon, Mark Devore and Craig Selander had a strong series at the plate. As a team, Minnesota hit .364 over the three games.
Minnesota will now head west for a series of games against Washington, San Diego State, Portland, Oregon State and San Diego in the next two weeks. The Gophers don’t play at home again until March 4 against Iowa State.
Muzerall nominated for award
Gophers women’s hockey player Nadine Muzerall has been chosen as one of 11 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, given to the top women’s college hockey player in the country.
Muzerall has and 26 goals and 27 assists for the Gophers (17-5-3). The field will be narrowed to three finalists on March 13, with a winner being chosen March 20.