Longhorns challenge Gophers, win two of three at Metrodome

Ace Tom Windle pitched Minnesota to its lone victory Friday.

Samuel Gordon

Spring break gave the Gophers baseball team a break from the classroom.

But on the field, Minnesota saw two of its toughest tests to date — Big 12 foes Kansas State and Texas.

Minnesota split a pair of midweek games with the Wildcats and dropped two of three games to the Longhorns.

The Gophers will play South Dakota State on Wednesday in their final nonconference game before Big Ten play begins.

“We’ve been challenged, and we’ve been humbled some,” head coach John Anderson said. “We’re trying to develop a team that can compete in the league and win some games at the end of the year. We’re making progress.”

Gophers junior ace Tom Windle pitched his team past Texas on Friday with his third straight complete game. He struck out 12 Longhorns batters in a 5-1 Minnesota victory.

Texas beat the Gophers 5-4 in 10 innings  Saturday, leaving Sunday’s rubber game to decide the series.

But Minnesota fell behind 6-0 early and couldn’t overcome the deficit. The Longhorns jumped on Gophers starter Alec Crawford for four runs in the first two innings.

Crawford, who made his second start of the season after missing the first month with a knee injury, said he was a little nervous despite feeling 100 percent healthy.

“It felt good to get out there and get some experience,” he said. “Texas is a good ball club. It’s good to get some innings under my belt.”

The junior right-hander was slated as a starter before the season, Anderson said.

So was junior lefty DJ Snelten, who also returned from an injury this week. Snelten took over for Crawford in the fourth inning and allowed a pair of runs.

Anderson said it’s important to get Crawford and Snelten experience before Big Ten play starts, and he said it’s important not to expect too much from them early on.

The Gophers put three runs on the board in the seventh inning Sunday.

But Longhorns preseason All-American closer Corey Knebel was untouchable in the late innings, retiring all six batters he faced to secure the win.

Minnesota sophomore shortstop Michael Handel went 2-for-4 and was the lone Gophers player to have multiple hits.

Senior center fielder Troy Larson said he’s happy with how Minnesota’s nonconference schedule played out and said the team made significant progress offensively.

“I’m glad we got to play so many competitive teams,” he said. “I think it’ll translate to a lot more success.”