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Published June 12, 2024

Mich.-Minn. series now a heated rivalry

The two teams though are in very different conditions heading into the weekend.

Because Wisconsin doesn’t have a varsity team, Michigan has become Minnesota’s top baseball rival in recent years.

up next

when: 6:35 p.m. today, 2:05 p.m. Saturday, and 1:05 p.m. Sunday
where:Siebert Field

The two teams have dominated the Big Ten this decade, winning a combined six of eight conference championships since 2000.

The last time they met was two years ago in the Big Ten championship, which the Wolverines swept. Two years before that, the Gophers swept the then-No. 19 Wolverines in an important four-game series.

“We’ve had a heated rivalry with those guys in the past,” catcher Kyle Knudson said.

But this year’s series has a much different dynamic.

The Wolverines, the only nationally ranked Big Ten team (at No. 19) are 20-4 in the conference play. They lead the conference in team ERA, strikeouts, total bases, slugging percentage, runs scored and have nearly twice as many homeruns as any other team.

The Gophers, meanwhile, are on pace to finish with their worst record in 60 years, and are in last place in the Big Ten. They have the third highest ERA in the conference, are second in strikeouts and have lost seven one-run games.

So while the two teams are used to competing for the top of the conference, this year the Gophers will be trying to prevent Michigan from clinching the Big Ten title at Siebert Field.

“Making the Big Ten Tournament may be out of the question, at this point, I don’t know,” catcher Jeff DeSmidt said, “But I wouldn’t mind playing spoiler and putting Purdue on top of Michigan.”

“Right now, for us to look ahead about the Big Ten tournament is wrong,” first baseman Tom Steidl added. “It’d be fun to play the spoiler, if that’s what our role is going to be. We’re going to go out there and try to ruin some of Michigan’s fun, and then look ahead to our next games.”

The Gophers would need to finish in sixth place or higher to make their 11th-straight Big Ten Tournament appearance this year. With two series left, they are three games out with three teams ahead of them.

Penn State is one of those teams, and they come to Siebert Field in the last series of the season, so a run at the tournament isn’t out of the question.

But head coach John Anderson, who has expressed a lot of frustration with his team’s fundamentals, is more worried about getting his team to play well than about a possible tournament berth.

“It’d be nice to play a clean game, for once,” he said. “If you don’t execute fundamentals, you don’t win. We’ve been on this losing streak, lately, and it’s been because of a breakdown in basic stuff like turning double plays and not walking guys.”

Game time changed

Saturday’s doubleheader has been moved from 2:05 p.m. to 2:35 p.m. by the Big Ten Network. They will be airing the Big Ten softball championship game at noon, and didn’t want the two events to overlap.

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