Big Ten title lies within Gophers’ grasp

The Gophers have a favorable conference schedule down the stretch.

Minnesota catcher Matt Halloran celebrates with his team after hitting a two-run home run against Iowa on Friday, April 27, 2012, at the Metrodome.

Mark Vancleave, Daily File Photo

Minnesota catcher Matt Halloran celebrates with his team after hitting a two-run home run against Iowa on Friday, April 27, 2012, at the Metrodome.

Samuel Gordon

With three Big Ten series left to play, Minnesota leads second-place foes Indiana and Nebraska by one game in the loss column.

Nine conference games remain, but the Gophers have a favorable schedule the rest of the way with only one road series.

Indiana and Nebraska will meet for a three-game set this weekend, meaning that the Gophers would gain ground on at least one of the teams by winning their weekend series at Penn State.

If Minnesota continues to play well, it could gain even more ground the following weekend. The Gophers will host Nebraska May 10-12 at Siebert Field, where they’re 4-1 on the season.

The Gophers rank ninth out of 11 Big Ten teams with a team batting average of .265. But they’ve proven to be serious contenders to win the Big Ten regular-season title with their starting pitching alone.

Minnesota’s team ERA of 2.91 ranks second in the Big Ten.

On top of that, the Gophers’ offense is rounding into form. Minnesota had 44 base hits and scored 28 runs in its three-game set against Iowa, both season highs for a three-game series.

Head coach John Anderson said he was particularly impressed with the way slumping catcher Matt Halloran swung the bat in the series.

Halloran busted out of his funk last weekend and went 4-for-10 with five RBIs. He’s hitting .204 this season after batting .307 a year ago.