Pitchers take three from Indiana

Minnesota is now tied with Illinois atop the Big Ten thanks to some quality pitching.

Matt Perkins

The roster for Minnesota’s baseball team no longer consists of starting and relief pitchers.

Assistant coach Rob Fornasiere said he feels confident the Gophers finally have a bona fide pitching staff.

The Gophers staff has found a groove in Big Ten play, leading the team to a 7-1 conference record and positioning the team atop the standings in a tie with Illinois.

The Gophers found different ways to win on the mound while their bats were silenced by misfortune in taking three games from Indiana this weekend at Siebert Field.

“We’ve hit balls at people with runners on base,” coach John Anderson said. “It’s been a recurring theme that hopefully flips over for us soon.”

But the Gophers (14-13) pitching staff was able to step up to the plate this weekend. Minnesota won 5-0 on Friday and 7-1 and 5-4 in a doubleheader Saturday, and lost 8-6 Sunday.

Senior Matt Loberg needed no help from the pen, pitching a complete-game shutout to open the series Friday in his first start since winning a second-consecutive Big Ten pitcher of the week award.

Loberg extended his scoreless innings streak to 25 and now leads Big Ten starters with a 1.52 ERA to go along with his 5-2 record.

Cole DeVries followed up Loberg’s performance by giving up one run while going the distance as well in the first game Saturday.

Saturday’s second game is when the bullpen went to work.

John Oslin had a shaky start, giving up three runs in two-thirds of an inning. But the Gophers bullpen picked him up, with Andy Peters and John Gaub combining for the last 6 1/3 and allowing no earned runs.

“We ran into a little bit of trouble in the first half,” Loberg said. “The bullpen did a really good job of stopping their momentum. We got it back and ended up winning that game, which was huge.”

Josh Krogman made his not-so-triumphant return to the rotation Sunday after being out nearly a month with soreness in his shoulder. He gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning of work, again forcing the bullpen into extended duty.

The Gophers offense stepped up to the challenge of a 7-4 deficit in the sixth, scoring two runs to bring them within one.

The relievers were able to fend off Indiana’s offensive barrage for the last three innings, holding the Hoosiers to just one more run.

It would come down to Minnesota’s ability to play from behind and hit with runners in scoring position, something which has plagued the team so far this season.

But that plague, which has come from well-hit balls not falling the Gophers’ way, again haunted their comeback bid in the series finale.

“It’s been characteristic of us all year,” Fornasiere said. “Our well-hit average has been a lot higher than our batting average.”

Senior Jake Elder was robbed of a two-run double down the right field line in the seventh when Indiana right fielder Joe Kemp made a diving play to save the 7-6 lead.

For Anderson, that play sums up how things have been going early this year.

And Anderson said he isn’t planning on the hits falling for the Gophers any time soon.

“It’s been the story of our year,” he said. “Things haven’t been going our way offensively. But our bullpen has been great, and we are going to need them to stay consistent.”