Baseball running behind in Big Ten

Gophers baseball fans might need to start thinking about making plans to travel away from Siebert Field the third weekend in May.
After what happened this weekend in the Big Ten, Illinois and Penn State appear to be the front runners to host the conference tournament that weekend. The honor goes to the regular season Big Ten champion.
Minnesota could only take two wins from Northwestern, while Illinois grabbed three of four from Michigan State, and Penn State swept Iowa.
The Illini have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Lions in the conference, while the Gophers are three back.
Minnesota coach John Anderson said he knew his team had its back against the wall before the Gophers even ventured to the north side of Chicago. And after the series with the Wildcats, Minnesota is even closer to booking another road trip.
“If you’re trying to win the league, there’s not a lot of room for error, otherwise you’re playing catch-up,” Anderson said.
Catch-up is exactly what the Gophers and every other Big Ten team are trying to do against Illinois and Penn State. But Minnesota will need a lot more than series splits if it’s going to do that.
Especially because the Gophers don’t get to face either Illinois or Penn State in the regular season.
“In some years, you try to split on the road and win three out of four at home, and that’s good enough,” Anderson said. “But when they’re playing so well, we need to do better than that.”
But not all is lost for Minnesota; they still hold the third-place spot in the league. And with 16 Big Ten games left, a three-game deficit isn’t out of reach for the Gophers. Of their four remaining conference opponents, only Purdue has a record over .500 in the league.
As long as the Gophers play well down the stretch, they’ll grab one of the six invitations to the conference tourney, where anything can happen.
Two years ago, when Illinois hosted the tourney, the Gophers went down to Champaign and beat the Illini for the Big Ten title. But the tournament is still a long way off.
“There is a lot of baseball left, and a lot of things can happen,” Anderson said.
Pitching prowess
Gophers sophomore Mike Kobow was named co-Big Ten pitcher of the week with Purdue’s Andy Helmer.
Kobow gave his best effort of the year Friday, throwing a one-run complete game, while striking out a career-high 10 batters.
Kobow’s teammate Kelly Werner was named co-Big Ten pitcher of the week last week.

Speedy Holthaus
Minnesota first baseman Josh Holthaus lugged around the bases in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game like a Mack truck on the highway.
The result was the junior’s first triple of the year, and only the third in his career at Minnesota.

Screamin’ Eagles baseball?
No, the Screamin’ Eagles aren’t playing the Gophers anytime in the near future.
Instead, Minnesota will face the Mavericks of Minnesota State at Siebert Field on Wednesday afternoon.

John R. Carter covers baseball and welcomes comments at [email protected]