Gophers baseball whips Wildcats

Sarah Mitchell

By sweeping Northwestern over the weekend, the Minnesota baseball team was assured a spot at the Big Ten tournament. But the Gophers conference regular season isn’t finished yet.
With the conference tournament two weeks away, the four game sweep by scores of 15-8, 7-3, 8-0 and 7-0 brought Minnesota one game closer to league-leading Ohio State. But with one Big Ten series remaining the Gophers (39-12 overall, 19-5 in the Big Ten) are still three games back of the Buckeyes.
“It’s frustrating because we don’t play Ohio State,” Gophers infield Matt Scanlon said. “We can’t control the outcome of their games. We’ve been waiting for other teams to knock them off, but they haven’t done so.”
After being rained out Friday, Scanlon jump-started the Gophers in Saturday’s game one, going 4-for-5 (including two doubles) while scoring three runs. In the nightcap, senior Aron Amundson sneaked the Gophers past Northwestern with a third-inning grand slam.
“It’s been a frustrating season. We’ve been in some close games this year,” Wildcats coach Paul Stevens said. “We just haven’t been able to put the nail in the coffin.”
On Sunday it was the Wildcats offense that died. Minnesota’s pitching staff combined with a near flawless Gophers defense to shut out Northwestern in both games of the twinbill.
Gophers starting pitcher Dan McGrath (5-0) remained perfect on the season, allowing the Wildcats eight hits through six innings in game one. Junior Chadd Clarey continued the trend in game two.
Like McGrath, Clarey lasted six innings. The junior allowed four hits and three walks.
“I felt OK out there,” Clarey said. “I’m disappointed about the walks, but it’s nice to give the team a chance to win.”
The Gophers offense gave Clarey room to work in the bottom of the first inning. True freshman Zach Schara took the mound for the Wildcats and felt the brunt of two errors.
Minnesota put four runs on the board, three of which were unearned. With the bases loaded due to an error by third baseman Todd Morgan, Gophers freshman Jack Hannahan singled and drove in Scanlon for the game’s first run.
The Gophers only earned run of the opening inning was scored by Robb Quinlan, who came home off a sacrifice fly from clean-up hitter Aron Amundson.
“The top half of our lineup did outstanding today,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “You play seven-inning games, your top five hitters get up the most and obviously it’s really important that those people have good at-bats for you.”
Minnesota added two more runs in the third inning and one in the fourth. Amundson picked up two more RBIs in the third with a two-run shot over the right field wall.
“We had some timely hits and good at-bats,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “Different guys picked other people up in different situations and I thought we had a couple of team victories today.”
Minnesota rounds out its Big Ten regular season this weekend with a home series against Michigan State. But first, the Gophers look to avenge a 7-6, 10th-inning loss to Iowa State when the two teams meet again on Wednesday.
“We have four games left and need to pick up three wins,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be hard to do, but we need to win as many as we can and get as high of a seed as we can.”