Minnesota’s long homestand opens with series split

Minnesota starters pitched well, but insufficient run support cost Minnesota two potential victories.

Gophers junior Ryan Abrahamson catches a pickoff throw from Austin Lubinsky as Milwaukee’s Luke Meeteer slides back to the base Sunday at the Metrodome.

Gophers junior Ryan Abrahamson catches a pickoff throw from Austin Lubinsky as Milwaukee’s Luke Meeteer slides back to the base Sunday at the Metrodome.

Samuel Gordon

 

For the Gophers baseball team, a weekend slate against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee may have revealed a few familiar trends.

Great starting pitching, offensive struggles and an inconsistent bullpen led to a split of a four-game set with the Panthers.

Minnesota’s starting pitchers turned in four good outings, but poor run support and some shaky relief pitching doomed the Gophers to a .500 weekend.

“I’ve said all year I think we’ll pitch good enough, but we’ve got to be able to score four or five runs to give ourselves a chance,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a lot to do on offense. … [We’re] still way too unaggressive in my opinion, taking way too many strikes, too many non-competitive at-bats.”

Staff ace TJ Oakes picked up the win Friday. The junior right-hander was dominant in allowing just two hits over seven scoreless innings. The Gophers’ offense mustered only four hits, but shortstop Michael Handel’s RBI triple in the fifth provided Oakes with all the help he needed.

“I thought we played alright the first couple games,” Handel said. “We need to score a little more runs, but I thought our defense was great, and our pitching was awesome as usual.”

Kevin Kray took over for Oakes in the eighth inning and shut down the Panthers in the final two innings to record the save.

Second baseman Matt Puhl’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie and put the Gophers up for good.

Lefty Tom Windle gave up two earned runs in six innings to earn his first victory of the season. Dustin Klabunde pitched the remainder of the game, giving up one run in three innings for the save.

The teams needed 10 innings to complete part two of the doubleheader. DJ Snelten threw 5.1 innings for Minnesota, allowing three hits and no runs. Milwaukee’s Cale Tassi was tremendous in his 7.1 innings, surrendering just one run and striking out seven.

Panthers’ leftfielder Jonathan Capasso’s two-run triple off Billy Soule in the top of the 10th helped Milwaukee to its first win of the season. Then it took advantage of Minnesota’s seventh-inning bullpen implosion to pick up its second win Sunday.

Starter Austin Lubinsky was sensational and was pulled after six innings of one-run ball. But freshmen relievers Jordan Jess and Ty McDevitt struggled to find the strike zone, and the game took a turn for the worse for the Gophers.

The two combined to issue six free passes (four walks, two hit batsmen) to Panthers’ hitters.

“[The young relievers] will get better. They have enough talent. They’re just getting their feet wet here,” Anderson said. “You’re going to have some days like that. … They’re not going to get better if we don’t run them out there.”

A passed ball and sacrifice fly helped Milwaukee score two more runs, and the Panthers held a 4-1 lead after seven innings. Milwaukee relievers shut down the Gophers for remainder of the game, and the Panthers tacked on two more runs late to complete a 6-1 victory and ensure a series split.

Minnesota was held to just a single run three times this weekend and struck out 30 times collectively. Handel said minimizing strikeouts will be key moving forward.

Anderson said after Sunday’s game that the young players’ ability to mature will be crucial as the season continues.

“We’re going to have to be patient. But at the same time, we’re going to have to hold people accountable to a certain level of play,” Anderson said. “There’s some talent there. We just have to keep working with them, and try to get better.”