Gophers baseball snaps losing streak, beats NW 7-4

Derek Wetmore

The Gophers offense took a while to warm up on a chilly Friday afternoon game before eventually prevailing 7-4. Through 3 1/3 innings, Minnesota struck out seven times and had only a handful of weak groundballs to its name.

Then, after being staked to a 3-0 lead, Northwestern’s starter Michael Jahns let things get away from him. The battery of Jahns and freshman catcher Jake Straub allowed a slew of passed balls and wild pitches to let the few Gophers who reached base to advance with regularity.

“Jahns did an outstanding job early. He was filling the strike zone up and he kept us off balance,” head coach John Anderson said. “We made him work hard the first half of the game and it paid off and we were able to get some at-bats against their bullpen.”

Jahns was pulled after five innings through which the Gophers had only two hits. When the reliever trotted in to take the hill, the bullpen catcher made the jog with him and replaced the starting catcher — an odd move indicating the passed balls and wild pitches may have been a product of a struggling catcher as much as an indicment on the pitcher. The control issues concerning the strike zone proved to be a metaphor for the Wildcat’s control of the game.

Minnesota (3-4 Big Ten) had a three-run rally in the sixth inning to take a 4-3 lead, one they would never relinquish. Nick O’Shea, who has played catcher of late to infuse more offense into the lineup, then drove in three runs with a seventh-inning double to right-center to bust the game open for the Gophers.   

“We were in a situation where we were looking to extend the lead a little bit. I was looking for a good pitch to hit; bases were loaded so I knew they had to pitch to me,” O’Shea said. “Luckily it found a gap.”

After some outstanding defense against them in last weekend’s series, Anderson said he was glad to see his team finally get a hit in a big situation.

“Last weekend at Michigan State [O’Shea’s drive] probably would have gotten caught,” Anderson joked. “We finally got one to drop in for us.”

Matyas, who earned the save, gave up his first run in regular season play since allowing a run against Northwestern on April 18 last year. It was his first run allowed this season.

“We lost four games in a row and I think the kids were starting to get frustrated and we talked to make sure that didn’t happen too much,” Anderson said.

The two teams will be back at it again Saturday at Target Field at 3:05 P.M. As has been the case with seemingly every game this season, that start time has an asterisk next to it that reads “weather permitting.” Snow was predicted for midday Saturday as recently as Thursday.