Well-hit doesn’t equal big hits for the Gophers’ offense

Minnesota plays Penn State this weekend hoping to get its offense on track.

by Matt Perkins

Heading into the 2005 season, Minnesota’s baseball team was predicted to win the Big Ten because it had eight of its nine bats returning to the lineup.

There were few expectations for a revamped pitching staff.

But the Gophers (15-13, 7-1 Big Ten) are nearly halfway through the season, and they are tied with Illinois for first place in the conference thanks to their arms and in spite of their bats.

The Gophers are looking to turn things around this weekend though, as they travel to Penn State (17-10, 5-3) for their first Big Ten road series today, Saturday and Sunday in State College, Pa.

Minnesota is currently second to last in the conference in nearly all major offensive categories, including batting average (.271), runs batted in (124) and slugging percentage (.354).

They’ve also scored the second-fewest runs (138) and are 33 behind eighth-place Michigan State.

The numbers are a complete reversal of last year’s statistics, which saw the Gophers among the leaders in almost all offensive categories. Last year, they led the Big Ten in average (.313), on-base percentage (.390) and runs scored (411).

So what is the cause for this season’s letdown in the batters’ box? The Gophers are blaming a little hard luck.

“Our well-hit average is very good,” assistant coach Rob Fornasiere said. “Some of our players’ averages are down – Mike Mee, for example. But Mike is hitting the ball hard right at people, and they are going to start to fall.”

The Gophers coaches profess the well-hit average almost as if it were a team goal.

But Mee doesn’t take comfort in Fornasiere’s sympathy, although he agrees things aren’t going the way he would like.

“We go up there every time with one goal – to try to hit the ball hard,” Mee said. “What can you do if you line out to somebody? All you can do is hope a bloop falls sometime.”

Despite the struggles, the Gophers’ offense has made do by excelling on the basepaths. Indiana is the only team in the Big Ten with more stolen bases, (54) than the Gophers (51).

But to be aggressive on the base paths, the Gophers need to get runners on base.

And that’s the focus this weekend.

“Unfortunately, that’s how baseball goes sometimes,” junior Luke MacLean said. “Sometimes a good hit gets caught, sometimes a bad hit drops. It will all even itself out over time.”

Krogman out again

Coach John Anderson said senior pitcher Josh Krogman will miss at least one more start and is doubtful to see any action in this weekend’s series.

Krogman had a poor outing in his return to the rotation against Indiana on Sunday after sitting nearly a month with a shoulder injury. He gave up four runs on four hits in 2/3 innings pitched.

Anderson said he didn’t know when Krogman would be starting again.