Despite the fact designated hitter Luke Appert already knocked in four runs on the day, Gophers baseball coach John Anderson had a big decision to make late in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader with Ohio State.
The game was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the bases jammed and no outs, when Anderson had to do a little thinking.
Should he send the left-handed freshman to the batter’s box against Buckeyes southpaw Kevin Wynk, or should he play percentages and pinch hit right-handed slugger Chris Guetzlaff?
To Anderson, it was a no-brainer: He went with the former.
“When I left the park (Saturday night), I said to myself, ‘The next time I have a chance to hit Luke against a left-handed pitcher, I’m going to,'” Anderson said. “He’d been swinging so good, I just wanted to give him an opportunity in that kind of situation.”
Anderson made the right move.
Appert lined a 2-2 pitch into the gap in right-center, knocking home Mark DeVore and Jeremy Negen to give the Gophers a 3-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“He did a great job of getting a pitch he could hit and making the contact for us in a critical situation,” Anderson said. “That’s what you like to see in a young player.”
Players of the week
Two Gophers, sophomore third baseman Jack Hannahan and pitcher Kelly Werner, were honored by the Big Ten on Monday.
Hannahan, who hit .583 in the Ohio State series, was named co-Big Ten player of the week with Illinois’ Chris Basak.
Werner, who pitched a complete game in the second half of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Buckeyes, was named co-Big Ten pitcher of the week with Northwestern’s Gabe Ribas.
The senior hasn’t allowed an earned run in 26 straight innings — 16 of those coming in the conference.
An afternoon in Ames
The Gophers return to action midweek when they head down Interstate 35 for a Wednesday afternoon tilt with Iowa State.
Although Minnesota might not be dancing with excitement about the trip down to Ames, the Gophers understand the importance of the midweek games.
“It’s a good way to stay sharp before next weekend’s Big Ten series (against Northwestern),” shortstop Rick Brosseau said.
Left-handed ace Ben Birk is still battling tendonitis in his throwing arm and is listed as day-to-day for the series at Northwestern.
Anderson said if Birk is available to throw, he’ll be on a strict pitch count.
“If we do get him back, it will be for 30 or 40 pitches,” Anderson said. “And if there is any question about how he feels, we won’t pitch him.”
Freshman C.J. Woodrow took Birk’s spot in the rotation against Ohio State. Woodrow gave up six earned run on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Big Ten roundup
The Gophers’ split against the Buckeyes dropped them from the top of the conference standings to the second-place spot.
Illinois leads the league by two games with a 10-2 Big Ten mark. Minnesota sits at 6-2 in conference.
The Wildcats, the Gophers’ opponent next weekend, are holding on to ninth place with a 2-6 record.
John R. Carter covers baseball and welcomes comments at [email protected]