Gophers put forth strong showing

Paul Cordes

The rain cut the Minnesota baseball team’s weekend a little short, but it had enough time to win its conference opening series against Penn State.

The Gophers opened the series with a 3-2 win Friday before splitting a Saturday doubleheader with a 3-2 loss and a 9-2 victory.

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when: 3:05 p.m. Wednesday w
here: Siebert Field

Minnesota found itself down two in the eighth inning Friday, a position not unfamiliar to the Gophers.

But back-to-back pinch-hit singles and sophomore centerfielder Matt Nohelty’s base hit bunt got Minnesota’s three-run eighth rolling.

After a walk to bring in the Gophers’ first run of the game, senior shortstop Dan Lyons kept things going by driving in a pair of runs to give Minnesota (17-6 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) its eighth comeback victory of the season.

Coach John Anderson attributed Friday’s win and a lot of Minnesota’s success to the depth of his lineup.

“We’ve got offense coming from up and down the lineup right now and our RBIs are spread out between a lot of different guys,” he said. “It’s good that we have an offense not set up around one or two guys, and in order to be a great team we’ll need hits from our eight and nine guys.”

That doesn’t mean that Minnesota’s top hitters were dormant over the weekend.

Senior left-fielder Mike Mee continued to pound the cover off the baseball including a 3-for-4, three run, two RBI performance in Saturday’s 9-2 drubbing of the Nittany Lions (5-15, 0-1).

As a team, Minnesota laced together 13 hits against six different pitchers in the second game of the seven inning doubleheader.

Mee said Gophers hitters are just trying to take a consistent mindset to the plate.

“We’re just taking the same approach up there each time and hitting the ball where it’s pitched,” he said. “And I thought we’ve had some really timely hitting here lately and we had that timely hitting in two of the three games this weekend.”

And when that timely hitting escaped Minnesota on Saturday, so did a win.

The Gophers left six runners stranded in their first loss in a one run game this season.

However, in the eyes of Anderson, Minnesota’s pitching staff performed strong all weekend.

Five Gophers pitchers combined to allow just six earned runs and 12 hits in 32 innings, including junior right-hander Ethan Vogt’s eight inning performance Friday.

Vogt struck out four and allowed just five hits as he gave up only two runs and picked up his second win of the season courtesy of the Gophers offensive rally.

After all of Minnesota’s late offensive bursts to put it ahead in multiple games this season, Vogt said he’s adjusted to his team’s tendency to fight back in later innings.

“We just go out there, throw strikes and try to keep it close,” he said. “We know that if we’re down 2-0 late, the game is not over and we just have to be sure to keep the game close until our offense can get things going.”

After a few strong weeks on the mound, the Gophers’ pitching staff is seeing some statistical progress as well. Minnesota pitchers are sporting a 3.49 earned run average.

In Vogt’s team-leading 33 innings, he has given up just seven earned runs and boasts a 1.91 ERA.

“Our guys pitched well enough for us to win every game we played this weekend,” Anderson said. “In my eyes, if we can hold a team to two or three runs in a game, that is good enough for us to get a win and usually we can capitalize on that but we fell a little short of that on Saturday.”

Still Anderson is moving on from this weekend and wants to see consistency from his team during conference play throughout the season.