Gophers host scorching Spartans

Minnesota is on a three-game win streak, but Michigan State has won 14 of 15.

Aleutian Calabay

The Minnesota baseball team is back on track after winning three-straight games, including a 10-3 win over Hamline on Tuesday. But the Gophers will face their biggest challenge so far this season when they host Michigan State this weekend at the Metrodome. The three-game series begins 6:35 p.m. Friday, continues at 2:05 p.m. Saturday, and finishes at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. Michigan State (19-5, 2-1 Big Ten) enters the series in first place in the Big Ten and is one of the hottest teams in college baseball. The Spartans have won 14 of their last 15 games and appear poised to bounce back from a 2009 campaign in which they finished fifth place in the Big Ten with a 23-31 overall record. Michigan StateâÄôs turnaround is largely because of its ability to play well in all dimensions of the game. The Spartans currently rank first in the Big Ten in both hitting and fielding percentage and are third in the Big Ten in ERA. âÄú[The Spartans] are having a good year,âÄù Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. âÄúThey have some experienced players back after they started to get it going at the end of last season, which has given them a lot of confidence. ItâÄôs going to be a competitive series, and hopefully we can slow that train down a little bit.âÄù The Gophers (12-17, 2-1) have received solid pitching all season long, and the losing record is largely because of the lack of run support the staff has received. The most telling statistic is that Minnesota leads the Big Ten in ERA with 4.55 runs per game , but is third to last in total wins. However, the GophersâÄô bats have caught fire recently. After being unable to put together a big inning for most of season, Minnesota has now had at least one five-run inning in each of the last three games, which unsurprisingly, has resulted in wins. âÄúIt sure makes it easier when you have some room for error,âÄù Anderson said about the added run support. âÄúIt makes it easier for everyone to play the game when youâÄôre not constantly in close ball games, no question about it.âÄù The Gophers will look to continue their hot hitting in what is shaping up to be a wide open Big Ten season. None of the 10 teams went undefeated as the conference schedule got underway last weeked, with half of the teams going 2-1 and half going 1-2. âÄúI think we have a lot confidence going right now, Minnesota outfielder Troy Larson said. âÄúWe just need to come out and have good at-bats. Lately weâÄôve been able to continue hitting, and hopefully that can carry over into this weekend.âÄù