Sweep brightens baseball’s shortened weekend

by Anthony Maggio

Minnesota’s baseball team arrived at Siebert Field on Sunday morning to prepare for a doubleheader against Indiana, after Saturday’s scheduled twin bill was cancelled due to inclement weather.

But instead of swinging bats or playing catch, the entire team went out equipped with shovels and brooms to clear the field of un-welcomed snow.

“There was two to three inches of slush just on the tarp alone after last night,” pitcher C.J. Woodrow said. “We were brushing off the tarp for an hour and we had huge piles of snow. I thought there was no way we would play today.”

But resiliency paid off for the Gophers as they cleared the field and then swept the Hoosiers with a 4-2 win in seven-innings.

The game was shortened to allow Indiana to catch its flight home Sunday night.

Minnesota (20-20, 10-6 Big Ten) got the best of Indiana (28-12, 9-8) on Friday as well, winning the first game 8-1. With the two game sweep, the Gophers move to .500 for the first time this season and take over second place in the conference.

But Minnesota has lost four Big Ten games in the past three weekends due to weather, leaving the Gophers with a small margin for error the rest of the season.

“It’s an uphill climb for us,” coach John Anderson said. “We only have six defeats and that’s the column we’ve got to focus on now since we haven’t played all our games. It’s all about winning percentage.”

Currently Ohio State is tops in the conference with a .684 winning percentage. The Gophers are at .625 in Big Ten play so far this season.

Minnesota sits in a good position thanks largely to its play over the weekend.

On Friday, Craig Molldrem threw eight innings of one run baseball, allowing 10 hits while striking out six.

Indiana couldn’t help its own cause, stranding 13 runners in the contest. Four Hoosier innings ended in strikeouts with runners on base.

“The first game we didn’t play well at all,” Indiana coach Bob Morgan said. “The first day I didn’t think we showed up. I was disappointed in our kids.”

Offensively, designated hitter Ben Pattee carried Minnesota on Friday, going 4-for-5 with five RBI and one run scored. Pattee brought his hot bat into Sunday’s game as well, going 2-for-3 and scoring another run.

Pattee is batting .345 on the year, but sizzled this weekend after Anderson moved Pattee from third base to designated hitter. Pattee had been struggling at third, committing a team high 17 errors this season.

“I think (the move) let me get my mind off things and settle down a bit,” Pattee said. “I’ve been able to relax and go up to the plate with some confidence.”

Anderson hoped his bullpen could build some confidence this weekend by getting a significant number of innings due to injuries to starting pitchers Jay Gagner and Josh Krogman.

But the loss of two games allowed for only one pitcher ñ junior reliever Nick McCauley ñ to come out of the bullpen.

Freshman Matt Loberg was slated to start one game this weekend as well, but didn’t get his chance thanks to the poor weather conditions.

“Our whole season right now is winning the league and winning the Big Ten tournament,” Anderson said. “To do that you need depth in your pitching staff.

“I looked at this weekend as an opportunity to pitch some younger guys. That’s why I’m disappointed we didn’t play the games.”

The Gophers are scheduled to face St. Cloud State on Wednesday at Siebert Field, but might schedule another contest for Tuesday in order to make up for the games lost over the weekend.

Anthony Maggio covers baseball and
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