Gophers drop two of three in “goofy” series

baseball

Ashley Goetz

baseball

Michael Kvasnicka searched for the right word. He came up with âÄúgoofy.âÄù Goofy was the Big TenâÄôs best pitching staff surrendering 27 earned runs. Goofy was the Big TenâÄôs best defense committing nine errors. Goofy was two teams combining for 62 runs and 12 home runs in three games . âÄúIn all three phases of the game, it was probably the weirdest series IâÄôve played in at any level of baseball,âÄù the sophomore right fielder said. The ball zipped around the park, confounding MinnesotaâÄôs defense or sailing over the fence, and the weirdest series also happened to be the GophersâÄô worst this season in conference play, as Illinois took 2-of-3 at Illinois Field. The Illini rolled to 15-10 and 10-7 wins before Minnesota captured the series finale 12-8 . Should the weekend prove the start of a trend defensively for the Gophers, there is undoubtedly cause for concern. MinnesotaâÄôs weekend starters, who have been outstanding all season, collectively allowed 13 earned runs in 17 innings . Cullen Sexton, one of the GophersâÄô more dominant relievers, was tagged for four runs on five hits in his lone inning of work . Meanwhile, the Big TenâÄôs most formidable fielding team committed nine errors which led to six unearned runs. âÄúThe ball flies around the ballpark pretty easily and every out seems like itâÄôs a lot of work,âÄù head coach John Anderson said. âÄúI surely didnâÄôt expect to see the offense that I saw. There were a lot of balls hit hard. Eighty-eight hits and 62 runs between the two teams; IâÄôd never have expected that coming into the series, but that ballpark really has a way of generating offense.âÄù Of course, with 62 runs, the offense went both ways. Junior second baseman Derek McCallum led the way, as he has so often this season, with an 8-for-14 (.571) weekend that included eight RBIs and three home runs . McCallum has been nothing short of remarkable at the plate recently. The numbers speak for themselves âÄî in five games this week, McCallum belted six home runs, drove in 20 and batted an absurd .636. WhatâÄôs more, heâÄôs in the middle of a 20-game hitting streak . âÄúIt is like nothing IâÄôve ever seen before, and thatâÄôs not an exaggeration,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúIâÄôm on deck every time he hits and I cheer for him every time but itâÄôs getting ridiculous. ItâÄôs like you canâÄôt even believe how many balls heâÄôs striking so hard. And thereâÄôs no sign of it slowing down âĦ itâÄôs really fun to watch.âÄù But when Minnesota put up runs, Illinois always seemed to have an answer. âÄúThere were so many home runs, so many times the lead changed,âÄù Kvasnicka said. âÄúTheir hitters would go 0-for-5, then the next five batters would all get hits it seemed like. I donâÄôt know how to explain it.âÄù The Gophers had a lead in every game, but couldnâÄôt hang on to one until they put up 12 runs Saturday evening. Their offensive production has accelerated in the past five games, surely a positive sign, especially if MinnesotaâÄôs pitching staff can return to form for next weekendâÄôs series against Purdue. âÄúGotta give the opponents some credit and try to wipe the slate clean and go back to what IâÄôve seen consistently all year long,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúAnd thatâÄôs a better defensive and pitching team.âÄù