Catcher’s offense sparks Gophers

LANSING, Mich. — At the end of infield practice prior to Sunday’s Gophers baseball game, Jeremy Negen’s teammates let out a mock cheer when he snagged a pop-up behind home plate.
As Minnesota’s catcher, Negen’s job is to do the dirty work. He’s a blue-collar worker who often doesn’t get serious credit for squatting behind home plate for four games in three days.
Coming into the four-game set with Michigan State, Negen was hitting just .244, with a mere 13 runs batted in.
Maybe the workaday Michigan atmosphere inspired Negen. The senior had a big weekend both at the plate and behind the plate to help the Gophers take three of four from the Spartans.
First, Negen did what he does best: call four good games to help Minnesota’s pitchers hold Michigan State to nine earned runs over the four games. He was not at fault in Sunday’s loss — his teammates committed five errors in the field.
While he may not get a lot of credit, Minnesota coach John Anderson appreciates his catcher.
“He’s done a tremendous job with the pitching staff all year,” Anderson said, “and people often lose sight of that. He calls all the pitches and knows how to get players out.”
Along with calling a good series, Negen got into his law enforcement act as well. He threw out four of seven runners trying to steal second in the series.
But most importantly, Negen swung a hot bat, going 6 for 14 in the series, knocking home six runs and scoring five times.
“I got to see a lot of good pitches this weekend,” Negen said. “It was good to finally break out and get some hits.”
Things went right for the senior in the first game on Friday. With the Gophers holding a 4-3 lead, and threatening for more, Negen stepped to the plate.
With the bases jammed, Negen delivered. A two-out, bases-clearing double increased the Gophers’ lead to 7-3. Another Negen ribbie two innings later put the game away.
“The guy always seems to get big hits for us,” Anderson said. “He’s a gamer. He doesn’t get a lot of hits, but he surely seems to get the hits that count.”
In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, he picked up where he left off Friday. Negen had a two-run single in Minnesota’s seven-run third to help the Gophers to a 16-2 waffle stomping.
In the second end of the twinbill, Negen went just 1 for 4, but it was a big 1. He singled to start the sixth, and eventually scored what turned out to be the game-winning run.
On Sunday, Negen’s luck went down the drain along with the Gophers. But the weekend was a sure sign that Minnesota can count on Negen for more than just defense down the stretch.
But despite the loss, does the senior like to play at Michigan State?
“Yeah, I guess I do,” he said.

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