The Minnesota baseball team will enter its weekend series against Indiana with a do-or-die attitude.
The Gophers (14-23, 4-5 Big Ten) enter the series on a three-game losing streak, and will be playing one of the hotter teams in the conference as the Hoosiers (19-16, 5-4) have won four of their last five games.
The series gets underway at 6:05 p.m. Friday, with the same start time Saturday. The weekend will then finish with a 1:05 p.m. start time Sunday. All three games will be played at the Metrodome.
The matchup against Indiana will also mark the beginning of the end of the season for the Gophers as it will be the first of their final three home series.
“We don’t have much room for error,” Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. “You have to try to win each series in the [conference] and so far we’ve won one and lost two. If we’re going to stick around, we’re going to have to win some series in the [conference], and it starts with this weekend.”
Despite the losing record, Minnesota has one of the best starting rotations in the Big Ten. The Gophers will start junior Seth Rosin (3-3) on Friday. Rosin’s control has been impressive all season as he boasts the best walk-to-strikeout ratio in the conference and has struck out 49 batters while issuing just two walks in 56 1/3 innings.
Freshman TJ Oakes (2-2) will get the start Saturday. Oakes has continued to progress well throughout the season and enters the series with a 3.94 ERA. Junior Phil Isaksson (2-0) will start the final game of the series. Isaksson has improved consistantly since he moved into a starting role and takes a 3.95 ERA into the series.
While consistency at the plate also continues to be an issue for the Gophers, they have begun to score more runs, averaging 6.6 runs per game over their last 10.
However, the team is still only 5-5 during that stretch, with three of the five losses being by either one or two runs.
“We have to start finding some ways to win close games and finish people off,” Anderson said. “Until we start executing the fundementals of the game better, we can’t expect anything to change. We have to hope the players can figure it out, if not, it’s just going to be more of the same.”
One promising point for the Gophers has been the development of some of their younger hitters. Sophomore Nick O’Shea enters the series as one of Minnesota’s hottest bats as he has boosted his batting average to .331 and has six RBIs, two home runs and two doubles in his last four games.
Junior Michael Kvasnicka continues to lead Minnesota in most offensive categories as he enters the series with a .352 batting average, 32 RBIs, 6 home runs and is tied for the Big Ten lead with 15 doubles.
For the Gophers to turn their season around, they will need to start having some of those solid individual efforts to be in sync.
Minnesota continues to be plagued by a variety of inconsistancies, but its biggest problems have been falling behind early, falling apart late or in some cases, both.
“We just need to start elimating one of the aspects that continues to bite us,” Minnesota freshman Andy Henkemeyer said. “We’ll give up a two-strike hit or have an error, and we have to start to take care of those things earlier in the game.”
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