Out west, a .500 road trip and a devastating injury

Nick O’Shea strained his oblique in Sunday’s game against Gonzaga and head coach John Anderson said he is unsure when the slugger will return.

Derek Wetmore

The Gophers baseball team entered spring break looking for continuity in the form of an eight-game West Coast road trip.

They left it with a .500 record, more games cancelled due to weather, and their power-hitting first baseman lost for the foreseeable future. Nick OâÄôShea strained his oblique in SundayâÄôs game against Gonzaga and head coach John Anderson said he is unsure when the slugger will return, but noted that he is âÄúnot close.âÄù

For the time being, Ryan Abrahamson and Dan Olinger will platoon to replace OâÄôShea in the lineup, but his production will be hard to match.

Minnesota (7-7) also ran into stiff competition in the first leg of its Sacramento road trip, dropping two-of-three to Gonzaga before sweeping Sacramento State and having its three-game series with Santa Clara cancelled due to rain.

In the opening series, the Gophers dropped two games to a Gonzaga team that strung together hits and made the basepaths look like a carousel Saturday and Sunday.

Minnesota had a big opening day to the road trip Friday, however, behind pitcher TJ Oakes (1-2 on the season). The sophomore threw 99 pitches in 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in the 8-1 victory.

Right fielder Justin Gominsky went 3-for-4 with two RBIs before being lifted for a pinch hitter late in the game. Third baseman Kyle Geason went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

Minnesota chased off Gonzaga starter Ryan Carpenter after six earned runs in just four innings of work, and made him labor for 93 pitches.

âÄúWe played one of our better games of the year Friday and beat a lefthander thatâÄôs supposed to be drafted very high this year,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúBut the next two days we just didnâÄôt play well at all. [Phil] Isaksson and [Austin] Lubinsky didnâÄôt have great outings and the bullpen didnâÄôt do much better. ItâÄôs hard to overcome poor pitching days.âÄù

The rest of the weekend, as Anderson alluded to, wasnâÄôt as kind to a team supposedly centered around pitching and defense.

Saturday, the club lost 10-3 after starter Isaksson (1-1) gave up five earned runs in five innings of work. Minnesota stranded 12 runners and wasted a 3-for-4 performance by leadoff hitter AJ Petterson.

SundayâÄôs 15-6 thrashing saw the Gophers commit three errors in the field and struggle to string hits together at the plate. Starter Lubinsky (1-3) only lasted two and one-thirds innings before giving way to the bullpen.

Rain postponed the teamâÄôs midweek series with Sacramento State, but the Gophers went 2-0 in the series and had an encouraging comeback Thursday.

Minnesota trailed 5-2 entering the eighth inning, but scored two in the top half of the frame and catcher Matt Halloran singled in a run in the ninth to force extra innings.

Petterson singled up the middle in the top of the 11th inning and closer Scott Matyas slammed the door shut on the 7-5 victory. Matyas actually threw the final two and two-thirds innings to keep Sacramento State at bay.

âÄúThe mindset for me is just to put up zeros and give the offense a chance to win,âÄù Matyas said. âÄúI think itâÄôs a huge confidence boost for us as a whole team knowing that we can come back and get some runs late in a game to win.âÄù

Though the bullpen has had inconsistent innings so far this spring, Matyas said he feels it will be a strength by the end of the year.

âÄúWe feel like when you give Matyas the ball, you can expect that the game is going to be over just because he has that mound presence,âÄù Gominsky said.

Finding enough innings for the pitching staff, though, will be a challenge, Anderson said.

âÄúLetâÄôs be honest here, weâÄôre down to 45 of our 56 games right now and thatâÄôs just if we play all the rest of our games. ItâÄôs going to be hard to get our pitching staff enough innings, especially when the starters begin to go deeper in games,âÄù Anderson said.

âÄúI donâÄôt know how weâÄôre going to keep all these people sharp when we donâÄôt have a baseball field we can go to consistently. ThatâÄôs going to be the challenge for us the next few weeks.âÄù