Gophers baseball’s offense struggles on opening weekend

Minnesota only finished with 17 runs in its first four games of the season, 13 of which all came in one game against Rutgers Sunday.

Infielder Jack Wassel watches his hit at Siebert Field on Friday, March 29, 2019. 

Jack Rodgers

Infielder Jack Wassel watches his hit at Siebert Field on Friday, March 29, 2019. 

Tony Liebert, Sports Reporter

In its season-opening series at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Gophers baseball team showed flashes of potential but ultimately struggled to find consistency, dropping to 1-3 to start the season.

March 5 vs. Indiana

Minnesota fell in its season opener with Indiana Friday 5-2.

Sophomore right-handed-pitcher Sam Ireland began his first career start for the Gophers with serious momentum, retiring the first two batters. He ultimately lasted midway through the fifth inning, after allowing three earned runs on seven hits and two walks. The Highlands Ranch, Colorado native recorded a career-high six strikeouts.

The Gophers’ offense struggled all day but found a rhythm in the bottom of the ninth. Andrew Wilhite got the party started with a single, then preseason second-team All American second baseman Zack Raabe belted a two-run home run, putting the Gophers on the board.

Indiana starting pitcher Tommy Sommer was lights out, pitching eight shutout innings on only two hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts. As a team, the Gophers recorded only five hits, resulting in a 5-2 defeat.

“Their left-handed pitcher, Sommer, was outstanding,” Gophers head coach John Anderson said. “We have to make some adjustments at the plate, but let’s not let our confidence go away here. We got beat by a good pitcher tonight.”

March 6 vs. Rutgers

Rutgers got the best of Minnesota Saturday in a dominating 16-1 performance.

Anderson deployed his ace Saturday, as right-handed-pitcher J.P. Massey took the mound for the first time in 364 days. He needed to shake off the rust, allowing two walks and eventually a grand slam in the first inning, giving Rutgers an early 4-0 lead.

Minnesota’s bats responded right away, as Raabe launched his second home run in only two games to left field, narrowing the lead to 4-1 after an action-packed first inning.

Massey couldn’t seem to get into a rhythm, as an RBI single from Rutgers’ Chris Brito extended the Scarlet Knights lead to 5-1 in the second inning. He would only last three innings until left-handed pitcher Noah DeLuga would take his place on the mound.

The pitching change did not help the Gophers, as Rutgers began to pour it on, ending in a 16-1 result.

“We did not execute the basic fundamentals on the mound or in the batter’s box,” Anderson said. “When you have breakdowns in the fundamentals of the game, it is difficult to play at a consistently high level. We will regroup and make some adjustments for the doubleheader day tomorrow.”

March 7 vs. Rutgers

The Gophers’ offense showed up in the first leg of Sunday’s double-header in a 13-8 win.

A five-run first inning from Minnesota was headlined by a deep home run to center field by Ronald Sweeney, extending its early lead to 5-0. Raabe joined the party in the second inning with his third home run in just as many games to start the season.

The offensive masterclass continued for Anderson’s experienced bunch, leading by as many as 12-4 in the seventh inning.

Senior left-handed-pitcher Tom Skoro pitched six innings for the Gophers, allowing only two earned runs and seven hits while adding eight strikeouts en route to earning the win.

A late ninth-inning rally from Rutgers cut the Gophers’ lead to 13-8, but Minnesota was able to hold on, earning its first win of the season.

March 7 vs. Indiana

After earning its first win of the season, Minnesota’s gas tank ran out, falling to Indiana 8-1 in the second leg of a doubleheader Sunday.

The Gophers’ offensive struggles were once again too much to overcome. Only four hits as a team were far not enough to keep up with the 13 hits from the Hoosiers.

Indiana’s Nathan Stahl was truly dominant on the bump. In five innings, he recorded 10 strikeouts while only allowing two hits and one earned run.

Minnesota was ultimately unable to find a consistent flow in the batter’s box and on the mound, resulting in another disappointing performance.

Minnesota will be back at U.S. Bank Stadium next weekend, hosting Illinois in a four-game weekend series.