When coaches talk about inconsistency, they’re typically referring to players failing to execute routine plays.
When Gophers baseball head coach John Anderson talks about inconsistency, he means his team’s early-season rash of postponed and canceled games.
Minnesota (8-8) went 1-1 in a weekend series with Cal Poly, dropping Friday’s game 5-1 but winning 9-4 Sunday. In between, Saturday’s game was canceled due to rain, making it the Gophers’ fourth canceled game in the past two weeks.
After mustering just three hits Friday and sitting around for 12 hours Saturday before the cancelation, the Gophers’ offense broke out in a big way Sunday, scoring nine runs on 16 hits.
With a single in the second inning Sunday, AJ Pettersen kept his hitting streak alive, finishing with two singles, two walks, a stolen base and four runs scored. The leadoff hitter’s streak stands at 19 games dating back to 2010, and he has reached base safely in every game this season.
“I’m just trying to stay consistent more than anything,” Pettersen said. “Last year I was kind of up and down, and this year I try to get at least one knock a game and so far it has kind of panned out for me.”
After the second inning single, Pettersen safely stole second base and later scored on Trip Schultz’s RBI base hit.
Schultz had four RBIs on the day and was a key contributor for Minnesota on Sunday.
Another major contributor for the Gophers on Sunday was outfielder Justin Gominsky. The junior went 4-for-4 with a walk to help pace Minnesota’s offense that had been marred in a funk.
Pettersen said the team as a whole was more aggressive Sunday and was also able to lay off tough breaking and off-speed pitches, something that the team struggled mightily with Friday.
“It’s really hard to try to figure out what’s going on because there is so long in between opportunities,” Anderson said. “Friday it was almost like we started over at game one … The hardest thing to do after a long layoff is to try to time a changeup.”
He added of his top performers Pettersen, Gominsky and Schultz on Sunday: “The guys we need to step forward for us are the guys that have experience. Those guys really did that today and we also used a lot of players off the bench.”
Getting enough playing time to balance between regulars and bench players has been a struggle thus far, but Sunday’s game was a step in the right direction before the team opens Big Ten conference play Friday at Target Field.
“It’s tough for the hitters with timing to miss games against live pitchers. I think we’ll battle through it,” Pettersen said. “Hopefully next weekend we’ll come ready to play.”
Following the theme of the not-so-young season, Sunday’s game was delayed because of complications from rain. When the grounds crew was dragging the field in between the third and fourth innings, second base came loose and there was a lengthy delay.
Perhaps as a result, Sunday’s starter Phil Isaksson lasted only three innings before being relieved by the team’s usual Sunday starter, Austin Lubinsky.
With Isaksson’s usual Saturday start getting canceled, he needed some work. Lubinsky pitched 3 1/3 innings and earned the win.
Freshman lefty Tom Windle also got 2/3 of an inning before closer Scott Matyas entered in the eighth. Matyas recorded a shutout inning, getting a flyout and two strikeouts to end the game in the eighth.
Matyas’ no-hit streak ended with a Cal Poly base hit in the bottom of the eighth, however. It was the first hit the closer had allowed all year.
The Gophers batted around in the seventh, scoring three runs to put the game on ice before the contest was called due to time constraints.
The teams finished eight innings but Minnesota had to catch a flight and, with delays early in the game, couldn’t afford to finish.
It’s tough to peg where the Gophers stand after a start to the season that has so far been inconsistent, both in terms of schedule and on-field play.
“What do you make of it? Which team is it?” Anderson asked rhetorically of his team’s bipolar weekend of play. “I don’t think I can make that determination at this point.
“Having a lot of games consecutively will help you figure that out but you have to give the players credit — they haven’t quit on us.”
Nick O’Shea was found to have damage to cartilage inside his ribcage, rather than an oblique muscle injury as originally believed.
The team has not yet released a timetable for the first baseman’s return. Dan Olinger and Ryan Abrahamson continue to fill in for O’Shea, one of the Gophers’ only true power threats.