Improved pitching performace yields just one weekend win

by Robert Mews

A home-opening Dairy Queen Classic for Minnesota’s baseball team didn’t do much to relieve the lack of wins, but it did help sustain some confidence against some national-caliber talent.

The Gophers (1-5) lost on Sunday to 23rd-ranked Nebraska (8-2), 4-1 while winning Saturday against Notre Dame (2-5), 8-0 and losing Friday to Arizona (10-5), 7-2.

Minnesota had a chance to come from behind in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Huskers with one out and Andy Hunter standing in the batters box with the bases loaded.

The Gophers’ opportunity to muster runs, probably their best scoring chance, elapsed when Hunter struck out.

“He threw a good slider,” Hunter said of the pitch. “It just got away from me a little bit, and I got in front of it.”

It also ended a 17-game hitting streak by Hunter that dates back to last season.

“I guess maybe it’s bound to happen at some point,” Hunter said. “Today was like nothing I did was right. I swung and missed all the time.”

Minnesota was able to salvage the inning when Matt Nohelty singled on a two-out, RBI to left field.

However, like earlier in the game, the Huskers were able to silence any run with a home run of their own.

Husker first baseman Brandon Buckman hit a towering upper-deck shot in the top of the ninth to keep the Gophers at bay from any possible comeback.

“We had some chances, and we didn’t get it done,” coach John Anderson said.

Nebraska got on the board in the top of the first inning when Buckman, the Dairy Queen Classic Most Valuable Player, hit a RBI double to right field.

The Huskers then were able to score another run in the third when Luke Gorsett stole home plate with Dustin Brabender in his pitching motion.

“The other guy steals home because we didn’t look back,” Anderson said.

Nebraska scored one more run in the fourth with a towering homer by Buckman.

“We made some mistakes throwing, and he capitalized on it,” Anderson said. “That’s a sign of a good hitter.”

On Saturday Minnesota was able to capitalize off the pitching mistakes by Notre Dame.

The poor pitching started when Hunter advanced from second to third in the second inning on a balk by Notre Dame pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

Samardzija then walked the next Minnesota batter.

The third batter, freshman Nate Hanson hit a two RBI double to left field.

The fourth batter, Tony Leseman hit a RBI single against Samardzija.

With the lead, the Gophers were able to take more attempts at stealing bases. Most of the attempts came in the sixth inning with Notre Dame’s Cody Rizzo in catcher for Sean Gaston.

Minnesota was able to steal three bases against Notre Dame while stealing only two in the other two games all weekend.

“I think when we look to steal, we look to steal more off of the pitcher,” shortstop Dan Lyons said.

In the game against Arizona, the Gophers had a chance for a strong run in the fourth with the bases loaded and one out.

Jeff DeSmidt grounded out into second bases for a RBI, but Leseman followed suit by striking out.

“We had a chance,” Anderson said. “Once again, they got the big hit with the bases loaded, and we didn’t.”

The Wildcats were able to knock in three-run innings in the top of the sixth and eighth.

Overall, the Gopher pitchers threw more inside, only five bases-on-balls this weekend, compared to 23 last weekend.

“Overall, pretty good pitching out there this weekend,” Anderson said.