Gophers take collective step back after three weeks of good baseball

Offense reverts to old ways as Minn. drops 2-of-3 to Penn State
May 16, 2011

The Gophers baseball team dropped 2-of-3 games this weekend to Penn State after scoring just five runs but remain in second place in the Big Ten standings.

Minnesota (20-20 overall, 12-9 Big Ten) was on a tear entering the series with the Nittany Lions, winning eight of its last nine Big Ten games.

That momentum came to an abrupt stop Friday as pitching, defense and a meek offense faltered en route to a 7-0 defeat.

Opposing pitcher Steven Hill threw a complete-game, four-hit shutout.

Gophers’ starter TJ Oakes took the loss after he surrendered seven runs (five earned) in 5.2 innings. Head coach John Anderson said he did not pitch as poorly as his final stat line indicated.

Shortstop AJ Pettersen made two errors and said that he felt he should accept some blame for letting the game get out of hand.

“I had two errors that probably shouldn’t have happened. The defense just wasn’t there,” he said. “Even though we weren’t scoring runs, we didn’t execute the fundamentals the way we normally do.

“I take that one on me for sure and they scored seven runs when they maybe should have only scored two or three.”

The Gophers fought back from a two-run deficit to win Saturday’s game 3-2.

After Phil Isaksson gave up a two-run homerun in the second inning, he settled down. He ultimately lasted 4.2 innings and did not factor in the decision.

He was relieved by freshman lefty Tom Windle. Windle (5-2) picked up the win and has been torrid of late.  

Petterson said Windle’s slider has been unhittable in recent outings and now sits around 86 miles-per-hour. He continued the trend Saturday with 2.2 innings of one-hit, scoreless relief before handing the game over to Scott Matyas for his 10th save.

Matyas, who set the Big Ten career record for saves last weekend, notched another by pitching 1.2 innings of shutout ball while striking out three.

Matyas has been the anchor at the back end of what has been one of the better bullpens in the conference for most of the season.

Minnesota dropped the rubber game of the series 4-2, struggling once again to put up sufficient run support for its starter.

Penn State hit three home runs and the Gophers only managed two runs, which brought their weekend total to five.  

“That’s been our Achilles heel all year. We’ve shown some moments of improvement but we surely haven’t been consistent. It’s something that continues to be our biggest detriment and it affected us this weekend too,” Anderson said.

Starter Austin Lubinsky pitched well, according to Anderson. He went seven innings and gave up four runs to go with four walks and four strikeouts.

“Austin did his job,” Anderson said. “He gave us a chance to win, we just couldn’t score five runs for him.”

Minnesota loaded the bases with nobody out in the third inning and failed to plate a single run.

“We’re good enough on the mound to compete with anybody in our league but we’ve got to score more consistently,” Anderson said.

The team took a collective step backward in all aspects of the game over the weekend, but Anderson said he hopes his team can have a short memory.

They’ll need it with a quick turnaround – the Gophers play a double-header against Ohio State this Thursday and close out the series Friday.

Each weekend starter will pitch on shorter-than-normal rest as Minnesota looks to get back to the brand of baseball that vaulted it to second in the Big Ten in the past month.

“Hopefully we can get the bats going for the end of the season here and make sure we’ve got them rolling around for every game as each game becomes more and more important,” Pettersen said.

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