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Gophers baseball’s struggles continue against No. 25 Michigan

Minnesota continues to have trouble finding consistent production from the mound or the plate, extending its losing skid to seven.
Image by Audrey Rauth
University of Minnesota Gopher pitcher Tom Skoro watches his throw meet the batter in U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, March 7. The Gophers lost to Indiana, 8-1.

Gophers baseball entered its weekend series with No. 25 Michigan sporting a four-game skid. The Maroon and Gold players struggled to get out of their funk, never getting their bats going, resulting in getting outscored 34-10 in a three-game series against the Wolverines at Siebert Field.

Minnesota on wrong end of blowout Friday

The Gophers had their first nationally televised game of the season Friday, with a midafternoon start on ESPNU. Sophomore Sam Ireland uncharacteristically struggled out of the gate, allowing a first-inning home run, putting Minnesota into an early hole, trailing 1-0. The Gophers’ bats responded with a two-run home run from senior Easton Bertrand in the bottom of the inning, as the Gophers gained a 2-1 lead.

Minnesota never held the lead again after Ireland allowed another solo home run in the top of the second frame, resulting in a quick departure after only two innings pitched. Senior Patrick Fredrickson replaced Ireland in the third inning and struggled mightily, allowing four earned runs in only two thirds of an inning pitched.

Trailing 6-2 entering the fourth inning, it only got worse for the Gophers. Noah DeLuga, Drake Davis and Bennett Theisen combined for 12 earned runs across four pitched innings. After 20 total unanswered runs, home runs from Ronald Sweeny and Zack Elliot made the end score 21-5.

“First of all, I thought we responded well early and came back in a positive way, scoring a couple of runs,” Gophers head coach John Anderson said in a statement. “When you don’t throw the ball over the plate and you have the long innings, and we’ve seen that plenty this year, it’s really, really hard to get any kind of offensive flow or have any flow to the game whatsoever.”

Gophers come up short in pitching duel Saturday

Redshirt sophomore left-hander Jack Liffrig came into Saturday’s matchup with Michigan holding a 5.13 ERA on the season, never really finding his rhythm.

That quickly changed, as the Highlands Ranch, Colorado, native found himself in a serious pitchers’ duel with Michigan’s Cameron Weston. The pair each tossed seven scoreless innings. Liffrig only allowed two hits and one walk, while Weston surrendered six hits and one walk. Both players finished with eight strikeouts on the day, respectively.

Despite Liffrig’s strong outing and 2-for-3 days at the plate from juniors Zack Raabe and Chase Stanke, the Gophers weren’t able to capitalize offensively and fell 4-0.

Senior Ryan Duffy allowed three earned runs, and the Wolverines scored four in the top of the ninth to end the scoring drought. Michigan struck out the three final Gophers’ hitters in the bottom of the ninth to close out the contest.

Late-inning rally not enough for Gophers Sunday

Minnesota found itself in a familiar position Sunday — an early 3-0 deficit after two innings. Senior Josh Culliver struggled out of the gate, surrendering three earned runs in only two innings of play.

The Gophers’ bats warmed up in the bottom of the third frame as Bertrand launched a two-run home run for his second long ball of the series, cutting down the Michigan lead 3-2.

Sophomore right-hander Trent Schoeberl came onto the mound and initially gave the Gophers two scoreless innings. Still trailing 3-2 heading into the sixth inning, the Gophers and Schoebel surrendered two more runs to the Wolverines, widening the gap.

Minnesota faced a 5-3 deficit heading into the seventh inning. The Gophers did not go down without a fight as they loaded the bases with their best hitter, Raabe, at the plate. Unfortunately, the Gophers only got one run from the situation.

The Gophers held their own on defense for a 1-2-3 eighth inning. At the plate, Sweeny hit a double, sending Andrew Wilhite home for one run. Still, Minnesota trailed by two runs heading into the final inning at 7-5.

There was no magic left for the Gophers as they surrendered two more runs in the final frame and failed to score any runs of their own, falling 9-5 and dropping to 4-20 on the season.

Next weekend

Minnesota will begin a two-series road trip starting next weekend as the team travels to Bloomington, Indiana, to take on the Hoosiers. The Gophers suffered two losses against Indiana in their season-opening series at U.S. Bank Stadium. They will now look to improve their record against Indiana (15-8).

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