Minnesota looking for consistency from starters

Matt Perkins

Starting pitching just isn’t what it used to be for Minnesota’s baseball team.

The early departure of one of the best pitchers ever to play for the Gophers in Glen Perkins, the 22nd-overall draft pick of the Minnesota Twins, left a void to fill going into the season.

That space has only gotten emptier as the season has progressed.

Now, as the Gophers (23-20, 12-8 Big Ten) start the home stretch of the Big Ten season two games back of first-place Illinois with just three series to go, their rotation doesn’t at all resemble the 2004 campaign.

But Minnesota’s series against Iowa this weekend, kicking off today at 6:30 p.m. in Iowa City, Iowa, gives the new guys a chance to mimic last year’s rotation’s stretch run.

“We’ve been pretty resilient all year,” coach John Anderson said. “And I expect more of the same from this ball club.”

Last year, the Gophers rotation for the last few weeks of the season saw Perkins, Josh Krogman, Craig Molldrem and Jay Gagner serving as starters.

Outside Perkins’ early departure, Gagner and Molldrem graduated at the end of the season, leaving Krogman as the only one of the four remaining.

However, Krogman underwent surgery Monday to repair a shoulder injury that has sidelined him most of the year, ending his career at Minnesota.

Krogman’s career with the Gophers was plagued with injuries and rehabilitation, including Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2002.

“It’s just such a sad story,” first baseman Andy Hunter said. “I played against the guy in high school and was excited to be playing with him when I came here. He is one of the greatest guys you will ever meet.”

Sentiments aside, Minnesota is losing one of its most consistent starters.

In his first three seasons with the Gophers, not including his medical redshirt 2003 season, Krogman posted a 4-0 record and a 4.89 ERA as a freshman, 5-4 record with a 4.17 ERA as a sophomore and 3-1 with a 4.39 ERA last year.

The new faces on the mound – Matt Loberg, Cole DeVries, Brian Bull and Dustin Brabender – haven’t been nearly as consistent.

Loberg, a senior, started the season with a 5-2 record, a 1.54 ERA and, at one point, put together a 25-scoreless innings streak. His last few starts haven’t gone nearly as well.

In three starts since, against Penn State, Northwestern and Purdue, Loberg has gone 0-2 with a 12.79 ERA.

He hasn’t gotten much help from No. 2 starter DeVries either, who is 1-1 with an 8.40 ERA in his last three starts.

“Loberg and Cole need to go later into the games our next series,” junior Luke MacLean said. “It’s a big boost going into the other games if our bullpen is rested.”

Anderson said he agrees Loberg and DeVries are the keys to Minnesota chasing down Illinois for first place in the Big Ten.

They just better start soon.

“There is no doubt about it, they have to get us deeper into the games,” Anderson said. “They need to perform this weekend, because every year the season comes down to the last few series, and the next series is always the biggest.”