Pitching helps keep Minnesota afloat

Although the offense has struggled, the Gophers have had strong pitching.

Robert Mews

For much of the season, Minnesota’s baseball team has struggled offensively.

But despite having the worst batting average in the Big Ten, the Gophers pitching staff has been able to keep many games within reach this season.

Part of that equation has been the emergence of starters Brian Bull and Cole DeVries.

Those two players along with the rest of the pitching staff have been able to post the second-best ERA in the Big Ten, at 3.85.

“I’ve been pleased with the pitching,” pitching coach Todd Oakes said. “The No. 1 objective of the pitching staff is to give the team a real good chance to win every game.”

For the most part the pitching staff has made games close, even when the Gophers’ offense was lacking.

Minnesota has been in 14 games this season with the score differential at three or less.

That could put added pressure on a pitching staff to not make mistakes when the offense is not performing up to par, but as Oakes said, the pitching staff has performed quite well.

“I think if you go out there with the mind-set that we can’t give up a run, I’m not sure that’s the right mind-set,” he said.

Bull and DeVries’ records may not demonstrate their success, but they’ve been keeping the Gophers in many of those close games.

Bull (2-3, 2.84 ERA), a left-handed senior, is in his first season as the No. 1 pitcher in the Minnesota rotation.

His pitching style relies on finesse – a mid-80s fastball, changeup and curveball.

“I’d probably say my changeup is my best pitch,” Bull said. “I try to use my changeup to set up my fastball as much as possible.”

This pitch combo has helped Bull become the ninth-best pitcher in the Big Ten at striking batters out looking with 11 – overall, he has 30 strikeouts.

DeVries (3-2, 2.28 ERA), a right-handed junior, on the other hand was the Gophers’ most experienced starter coming into this season.

He relies more on power – a lower-90s fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball and changeup.

He started the season on a bad foot against Florida State when he had six earned runs and five bases-on-balls.

However, DeVries has turned things around quickly this season and more so at the Metrodome.

He has pitched three shutout games in the home Dome this season and almost had another one this past weekend until one pitch drove in the winning runs for Michigan.

“It might hav e been the best I have ever seen him throw on Sunday,” Oakes said. “But the bottom line is we still lose.”

And while the offense has not been behind the strong pitching as of late, the pitchers and coaching staff is confident that once it does pick up, the team might be in position to make a run.

“Usually over the course of time those things even out,” Oakes said. “So, I’m optimistic that if we just continue to do our job on the mound that our bats are going to come out of it.”