McGrath pitches in to give U boost

by Sarah Mitchell

Minnesota’s four-game sweep of Iowa two weekends ago was an accomplishment in itself. Inside that story, however, were the accomplishments of the Gophers’ starting pitchers, who held a tough Hawkeyes lineup in check.
The team’s three games to one series loss at Michigan over the weekend provided a much different outcome. As the Gophers’ offense struggled, its pitching staff also fell a notch below its previous performance.
Dan McGrath, who made his Big Ten leading 14th mound appearance on Sunday, was the only Gophers starter to lead the team to victory. In his second career complete game — and his second in two weekends — the left-hander allowed 11 hits and 3 runs while improving to 6-0.
“It’s great being able so say that I am 6-0, but it is not the greatest reflection of me personally or the team,” McGrath said. “I would rather our team won three out of four this weekend even if it meant me going 5-1.
“To be honest with you, I am surprised by the outcome of the game because I did not pitch to my potential compared to the other weekends.”
McGrath is temporarily filling the position as Sunday’s starter in the absence of number one pitcher Ben Birk. Gophers coach John Anderson said Birk might pitch in relief against Illinois this weekend and will likely start against Indiana the following weekend.
Pending the return of Birk, McGrath might soon be headed to the bullpen to sit amongst the rest of the Gophers relievers.
However, the Australia native said that he doesn’t mind having to sacrifice his starting job.
“I just like pitching, whether it means all nine innings or just coming in as a reliever,” McGrath said. “Every guy on the roster just wants to be on the field.”
Love the glove
Minnesota, which lost two one-run games in the Michigan series, could have easily been slaughtered in those games if not for some stellar defensive plays.
During the four game series, the Gophers committed only three errors, all of which occurred during Saturday’s doubleheader.
The Gophers lost Friday’s game 5-4, but could have surrendered more runs to the Wolverines’ defense if it were not for the heads-up play of the outfielders, who gunned down two runners at the plate.
Third baseman Matt Scanlon also made defensive stops at crucial times, especially on Sunday. Scanlon came through at times when the game, which Minnesota won 6-3, could have easily gone in Michigan’s favor.
One of Scanlon’s highlights occurred in the fifth inning when he speared a line shot off of the bat of Mike Cervenak.
“Scanlon really stepped up his play,” right fielder Craig Selander said. “He had some tough plays.”

Saturday Night Fever
Although Scanlon’s defensive skills were not lacking last weekend, his fashion sense was. While the rest of his teammates arrived at the airport sporting traditional suits and ties, Scanlon strutted in wearing attire Selander classified as “something a little bit out of this era.”
Wearing the outfit — an atrocious clash of putrid green and orange that definitely screams the ’70s — has become a team tradition. Every player is supposed to don the “costume” once in his career and Scanlon happened to be this weekend’s winner … or loser.
McGrath said the outfit builds a bond among the players because “the guys feel safe being humiliated within the confines of the team.”
McGrath added that the suit also serves another purpose, one of loosening the players up and reminding them baseball is fun.
“You see a kid in that suit and you forget about the games ahead,” McGrath said. “It’s an interesting way for the guys to joke around.”
An inquisitive person might wonder how every guy on the team can fit into the suit, seeing as how the players’ heights range from 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-6. But Rick Brosseau is not concerned.
“If 6-5 Ben Birk can fit into it, anyone can,” Brosseau said.
Around The Horn
ù Starter Kelly Werner still has yet to allow an opposing batter to take the ball deep. The sophomore is the only Big Ten pitcher who has not surrendered a home run this season.
ù Heading into last weekend’s four game series, Minnesota found itself atop the Big Ten with a .352 batting average. However, an offensive slump against Michigan plummeted the team to eighth in the standings with a combined .296 batting average.
ù While Minnesota’s hitting took a turn for the worse this weekend, the team’s pitching statistics improved. The Gophers pitchers are ranked second in the Big Ten standings with a combined 3.77 ERA.