Baseball recovers from mid-week slump for two wins

Anthony Maggio

After a disappointing 0-for-12 showing last Wednesday from the big three of Minnesota’s baseball team, the heart of the lineup flipped the switch to “on” and led the Gophers to their second straight Big Ten series victory at Penn State.

Luke Appert, Jason Kennedy, and Scott Howard ñ the three, four, and five hitters ñ combined to hit .500 versus the Lions paving the way for Minnesota to take two of three games on the road.

“That shows you they’re older players,” coach John Anderson said. “They have a lot of pride in how they play. They know they have to produce for our team to be successful on offense. They took it upon themselves to get after it and they did.

“They felt bad they let the team down at Nebraska.”

The Gophers (15-17, 7-4 Big Ten) were upset with their defensive effort against the Cornhuskers as well, and were able to right the ship this weekend.

After committing four errors on Wednesday, the Gophers tightened the screws and committed only one error in three games.

“We’ve been playing pretty good defense as of late,” Appert said. “I think it’s because we’re getting more confidence on defense. Everyone’s taking it upon themselves to play better defense, so that’s really encouraging to see.”

Anderson said shortstop Scott Welch, third baseman Ben Pattee, and first baseman David Roach all “had a very good weekend defensively.”

The pitching staff turned in a solid performance as well. Reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Craig Molldrem threw a complete game on Friday, holding the Lions (13-16, 3-8) to two runs on six hits while striking out six in the 7-2 victory.

Minnesota jumped all over Penn State ace Mike Watson, scoring seven runs on 14 hits, including four for extra bases.

The double-header scheduled for Saturday was called due to rain. So the teams played a double-header on Sunday. C.J. Woodrow also threw a complete game, but couldn’t get any help from his hitters, as the Gophers lost the seven-inning affair 3-0.

“We couldn’t get a big hit in the first game (Sunday),” Anderson said. “Give credit to their pitcher (Clayton) Hamilton, he had three pitches and threw strikes. We hit seven or eight balls hard, but right at somebody. That’s baseball some days.”

The Minnesota bats came back to life in the second game on Sunday, belting 10 hits en route to an 8-0 win.

Sophomore Josh Krogman earned all but the last out, allowing only four hits in the shutout. Freshman Tim Theis came on to register the final out.

“The main thing (to our success) is we’re throwing more strikes and our defense is starting to play really well behind us,” Krogman said. “They’re not bringing extra batters to the plate, and that can only help you.”

Solid defense is a welcome sign for Minnesota with the Big Ten season three weeks old. The Gophers are only two games out of first-place Ohio State in the win column, and play their next two Big Ten series at home in Siebert Field.

“Coaches always tell us that we play our toughest competition early in the year,” Krogman said. “Now in the Big Ten season we’ve got some experience and some games under our belt, so we’re doing pretty well.”