Hot bats lead to another series win

Minnesota produced 49 hits and 48 runs during the final three games of the series.

by Paul Cordes

The Minnesota baseball team received an unexpected wake-up call Friday night at Illinois, in the form of a 10-5 loss to the Illini where the Gophers committed an uncharacteristic five errors.

up next

North Dakota State
when: 6:35 p.m. Wednesday
where: Siebert Field

But Minnesota was slightly livelier in the final three games of the series as the Gophers shelled Illinois’ pitchers with 19-4 and 14-5 wins Saturday and a 15-6 victory to close out the weekend on Sunday.

Coach John Anderson was weary about playing conditions in Champaign before the team headed out, and in games when every play is described as an adventure, sophomore third baseman Nate Hanson said there were some tough plays that didn’t get made.

“The errors really hurt us,” he said. “The playing conditions were tough and when you make that many errors, I think we gave them about six extra outs, which is basically another two innings for them to score runs.

“That will hurt any team, and it did hurt us on Friday.”

On the other hand, Illinois did come up with the big plays that shut down Minnesota’s comeback attempts.

Two diving catches from Illini outfielders with Gophers base runners in scoring position kept momentum in Illinois’ dugout.

“They made the big plays on Friday,” Anderson said. “And to me that was the difference in the ball game.”

But the gifts Minnesota handed over to the Illini came at a price for Illinois (20-20 overall, 8-10 Big Ten).

A day after tying their season high in errors, the Gophers arrived at the field for a pair of seven-inning affairs and were looking for some retribution.

Senior left fielder Mike Mee said after losing a tough game to open the series, Minnesota (30-8, 12-3) was looking to come out and make a statement in the final three games.

“We pride ourselves on playing like professionals and playing consistently at a high level,” Mee said. “We didn’t establish that on Friday so we made a point to do so the rest of the weekend.”

The Gophers did so – loud and clear.

In the final three games, Minnesota amassed 48 runs on 49 hits while recording just two errors.

Mee, who scored seven runs on a weekend in which he finished 8-for-17 with a home run, said his team put together some good at-bats.

“Hitting is contagious,” Mee said. “We each kind of stuck with what was working for us. I think we were seeing the ball deep, we hit the ball where it was pitched and established what we wanted to do early.”

In game one Saturday, the Gophers scored in every single inning. Led by Hanson, who went 5-for-5 on the day with his fifth homerun of the season, Minnesota was able get the momentum that evaded it the night before.

Anderson said his team was well aware of the fact that it would need to score a lot of runs in order to win, and the Gophers wasted no time.

“I was impressed with how we rebounded. They came out to the ballpark on Saturday and played extremely well,” Anderson said. “A lot of runs get scored at the ballpark with the wind blowing out and the infield and outfield in bad shape, so we knew it would be that kind of series.”

And that kind of series it was, as 12 different Minnesota hitters found a way to get at least one hit.

The 33 runs on Saturday were the most by the Gophers in a Big Ten doubleheader since 1995 when they recorded the same total against Michigan State.

The win on Sunday not only gave the Gophers the momentum heading into a midweek game against North Dakota State, but also marked the quickest Minnesota has been able to get to 30 wins since 1993 when the team also did so in 38 games.

“With the way we played, we have a lot of momentum and confidence, especially at the plate,” Hanson said. “I think we’re really relaxed and will be ready to go heading into the midweek game.”