Gophers and Lions vie for Big Ten title

The Big Ten is down to the big two. Two weeks left in the regular season, and two teams fighting for the conference title.
It’s 29th-ranked Minnesota and No. 28 Penn State in the race for the Big Ten title.
The two teams haven’t played this year, and probably don’t know much about one another, but in the next 14 days they will become quite familiar with what the other is doing.
With eight Big Ten games a piece left, the two are set to decide who wins the 2000 regular season and earns the right to host the conference tourney.
Penn State currently sits atop the Big Ten standings with a 15-4 conference record. The Gophers are just percentage points behind at 15-5.
Undoubtedly, there will be a good deal of scoreboard watching in the next two weeks.
Despite the frustrating loss to Michigan State on Sunday, Minnesota coach John Anderson said the Gophers are playing the type of baseball they need to win the league.
After all, neither team is perfect.
“Penn State’s not going to win the rest of its games,” Anderson said. “We’re in the position we want to be in. With eight games left at home we have a chance to win the league. We can’t lose sight of that.”
Neither team has much room for error. Just one loss could be all the other one needs to clinch the league.
Minnesota begins its run Saturday at Siebert Field, when Indiana heads to campus for a pair of weekend doubleheaders. The following week the Gophers host Purdue.
Meanwhile, Penn State takes on Ohio State in Happy Valley this weekend. The Lions then have to head to Northwestern to end the season.

All cheered out
Apparently Spartans fans are burned out after rooting their men’s basketball team to a national championship.
A combined crowd of just 1,156 showed up for the four-game series with Minnesota at the off-campus stadium of Oldsmobile Park — many of those who showed up were wearing maroon and gold.
On campus, things were a bit different. All along Grand River Avenue in East Lansing — Michigan State’s version of University Avenue — every shop from the Student Bookstore to a corner market sold NCAA men’s basketball championship apparel.

Is this heaven?
Down in Iowa this weekend, Hawkeyes pitcher Chad Blackwell tossed the first perfect game in school history.
Blackwell, who was beaten by the Gophers the week before, shutdown Northwestern 4-0 on Saturday.
The junior struck out six in the seven-inning game. But is didn’t come easy, neither when he was on the mound or in the dugout.
“I was watching every inning. I’m a stat-rat,” Blackwell told the Daily Iowan. “It started to become realistic in the sixth inning. I just thought, I’ve got to keep doing it.”
The last time Minnesota threw a perfect game was in 1970, when Roger Zahn and Karl Johnson combined to freeze Macalester.
Tommie Time
St. Thomas travels up Mississippi River Blvd. Wednesday evening for the annual showdown with the Gophers.
The Tommies haven’t gotten a “W” against Minnesota since 1987. Last year the Gophers pulled off a 2-1 win at Siebert Field.

John R. Carter covers baseball and welcomes comments at [email protected]