Gophers take two of three against Northwestern

Minnesota also won four games in California over spring break.

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

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

Betsy Helfand

Minnesota won four of five games in California over spring break before trekking back to the Midwest for a Big Ten series with Northwestern.

The Gophers scored 34 runs in their four victories in the Golden State and followed that success with a big series victory over the Wildcats in their first Big Ten series of the season.

Minnesota took two of three games against Northwestern to kick off its conference season on a high note.

While the Gophers returned to the Midwest after a trip to sunny California, they didn’t play in the area they expected. The series with Northwestern was moved to St. Charles, Mo., because of weather conditions in Evanston, Ill.

That slight change in plans didn’t seem to faze the Gophers over the weekend.

Minnesota split a Saturday doubleheader, winning the first game 5-1 before losing 4-3 in the second game. The Gophers used stellar pitching to win the rubber match 2-1 Sunday afternoon.

Minnesota had strong pitching performances throughout the weekend, particularly from senior starter Alec Crawford on Friday and junior starter Ben Meyer on Sunday.

Crawford gave up only one run in seven innings of work in the series opener, and Meyer gave up one run in a complete game in the finale.

Minnesota, which isn’t known as a power-hitting team, scored four of its five runs in the first game with one swing of the bat from junior shortstop Michael Handel . Handel hit a grand slam for the Gophers in the first inning, which was more than enough for Crawford.

In Saturday’s second game, starter Jordan Jess gave up three earned runs in 3.2 innings.

Gophers freshman pitcher Toby Anderson came on in relief and didn’t allow a run in 4.1 innings. It wasn’t enough, as his team still fell.

Meyer’s performance Sunday assured that the Gophers opened the Big Ten slate on a good note.

Meyer got some help on the offensive end from junior third baseman Tony Skjefte. Skjefte blasted a two-run double in the sixth inning to provide all the offense the team needed.

That completes the seemingly endless road trip to start the season for the Gophers. Minnesota will play its first home game of the season at Siebert Field this week — weather permitting, of course.