Pitching woes continue as Minnesota loses series

Ben Gotz

The Gophers recorded double-digit hits in each of their three games at Rutgers over the weekend. But for a chance to win the series, they needed one more.
 
The Gophers (10-17, 2-7 Big Ten), down 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, had two on with two out, but after catcher Matt Halloran worked the count full, he fouled out to left field.
 
The failed rally lost the Gophers the series after splitting an earlier high-scoring doubleheader with the Scarlet Knights 6-13 and 11-9 on Saturday.
 
“We’ve grown as a team offensively, there’s no question about it,” head coach John Anderson said. “But until we start throwing more strikes and executing on defense better,
it’s just not going to matter how good on offense we are because [in] those two areas of the game, we’re not playing very well right now.”
 
The Gophers out-hit Rutgers over the weekend, but pitching and defensive errors put the team into holes its offense couldn’t dig itself out of.
 
Minnesota scored the first run in its first game Saturday, but a four-hit, three-error bottom of the inning allowed Rutgers to move in front.
 
“There was a lot of times this weekend where we’d get guys on base, and we had guys on base and we’d make an error [and] prolong the inning,” centerfielder Dan Motl said.
 
“It’s something we can’t do on defense.”
 
In the next inning, the Gophers offense brought the game to within a run, but the Scarlet Knights struck right back with three more runs to take a 7-3 lead. The score was never closer for the rest of the game.
 
In the second game of the doubleheader the Gophers pulled away with a six-run fifth inning, propelling the team to an 11-9 victory.
 
Only one of the 10 Minnesota players that stepped to the plate in the game failed to record a hit, and eight scored a run.
 
“Guys are swinging it well,” Motl said. “[We’re] just being more aggressive at the plate [and] not taking a lot of fastballs in hitter’s counts. We’ve strung some hits together and put up runs, and I think everyone just looked a lot more comfortable.”
 
Rutgers pulled within three runs in the bottom of the seventh, but the Gophers were able to close out the game for their second conference victory of the season.
 
But Sunday, Rutgers closed the Gophers out with two on in the ninth inning even though Minnesota received timely hits for most of the afternoon.
 
Four of the Gophers’ five runs in the game were scored with two outs, allowing the team to build a 5-3 lead after the fifth inning.
 
But the Gophers pitching staff couldn’t hold Rutgers down.
 
“Just looking at the game [Sunday], they were getting away with walks and hit batters and freebies,” pitcher Tim Shannon said. “If you give up a hit after you’ve walked a few guys, that’s when things really start to get into trouble.”
 
Control has plagued the team all season, and the problem showed up again in the team’s third lost series in conference play.
 
“We have to throw more strikes as a pitching staff,” Anderson said. “That haunted us, continues to haunt us.”