The Gophers’ offense has been up and down this season, but one first-inning run was all it took for the Gophers Wednesday.
Minnesota (22-17) squeaked by Nebraska-Omaha 1-0 on the strength of its pitching and defense and completed a two-game sweep of the Mavericks.
Five pitchers, led by starter Ty McDevitt, combined to shutout UNO in the Gophers’ first five-pitcher shutout since 2003.
Kurt Schlangen scored the game’s only run on Mavericks shortstop Brady Hohl’s throwing error in the first inning. McDevitt and the bullpen did the rest.
The freshman McDevitt cruised through the first three innings and worked his way out of minor trouble in the fourth inning.
UNO’s second baseman Caleb Palensky doubled to lead off the frame, and right fielder Mark Waldron followed with a single. Palensky advanced to third, but Waldron got caught in a rundown and was tagged out.
Connor McCrite lined out to the first baseman for the second out. McDevitt struck out Alex Mortensen to escape unscathed.
“Sometimes I like a little challenge out there,” McDevitt said. “I like to be able to get that bulldog mentality and just trust my stuff.”
The Mavericks (11-27) didn’t threaten again until the ninth inning. Gophers closer Kevin Kray allowed back-to-back two-out singles. The rally was foiled, though, and Jared
Patton flied out to end the game.
McDevitt was credited with the win. He allowed three hits and struck out three batters in four shutout innings. Kray picked up his seventh save of the season.
“Pitching, pitching and more pitching. That was the theme again today,” Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. “They just pitched the heck out of it.”
Dustin Klabunde threw two innings of scoreless relief. Tom Windle struck out three in 1.1 innings, and Drew Ghelfi threw a scoreless inning as well.
Gophers shortstop Michael Handel returned to action Wednesday as the designated hitter. He had missed the last three games with a sore right shoulder.
“The shoulder is still feeling a little rough, but swinging is feeling better,” Handel said.
Swinging is pain-free, he said, but throwing still hurts.
“I tried throwing today, and I got it out there a little farther than yesterday. … My goal is to return this weekend,” Handel said.
Minnesota will travel to East Lansing, Mich., this weekend for a three-game set with Michigan State. The Gophers are 6-3 in Big Ten play, one game ahead of the 5-4 Spartans.
Minnesota and Michigan State are evenly matched. The Gophers are first in the Big Ten during conference play in team ERA (2.28), and the Spartans are fourth with (3.66).
But Michigan State is hitting .326 in the conference and has the fourth most runs (53). The Gophers are 10th out of 11 conference teams with 34 runs scored.
Anderson said he expects the team that limits mistakes will prevail.
“The standings are going to change numerous times throughout the year,” he said. “Our job is to go out and play well. … This is going to be a competitive series.”
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