April showers forced the postponement of Gophers baseball and softball games Wednesday. Minnesota’s baseball team was scheduled to take on Hamline at Siebert Field, and its softball team was scheduled to play a doubleheader against North Dakota at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The Gophers baseball team has postponed multiple games this season. Minnesota made up the postponed game against North Dakota State but did not make up its postponed game against St. John’s.
Matt Halloran, Dan Motl, Ty McDevitt, Austin Athmann, Dan Olinger, to name a few — and now, starting shortstop Michael Handel. Injuries have ravaged the Gophers baseball team’s roster this season. During Saturday’s game, Handel pulled his hamstring, becoming the latest addition to the seemingly never-ending list of injured players. Though some players have returned from their early-season ailments, the team has spent most of the year working around the slew of injuries its players have faced.
The Gophers appeared on track for a crucial series victory over Iowa on Sunday until an ugly inning threw them off course. Minnesota won 4-3 in the first game Friday and dropped the second game 11-5 Saturday afternoon. That left the rubber match on Sunday. Minnesota led 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, and then its bullpen imploded. The Gophers gave up six runs and eventually fell 7-6 at the hands of the Hawkeyes.
There wasn’t any question of who would start for the Gophers behind the plate heading into this season. Minnesota senior Matt Halloran was supposed to be the team’s primary catcher. That was the plan, at least. Halloran had an arm injury that flared up during the first game of the season, and he hasn’t caught a game since. As a result, the position has been a revolving door of sorts for the Gophers.
Gophers senior Dan Olinger saw only one pitch during Tuesday’s game. But that pitch made all the difference in Minnesota’s 5-3 victory over North Dakota State. Olinger hit a pinch-hit, two-run single with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game. “Jake Bergren on second base had the pitch,” Olinger said. “He had the signs, so he called it and told me what was coming, and I was just trying to hit a fastball and … drive in some runs.”
Minnesota’s game against North Dakota State on Tuesday will double as a family reunion for Todd and Tyler Oakes. Both pitching coaches, Todd Oakes will post up in Minnesota’s dugout, and Tyler, his oldest son, will be in North Dakota State’s. Tyler, who pitched for Minnesota from 2006-09, served as a pitching coach for two years at South Dakota State and then as a volunteer pitching coach at Minnesota before taking his current job.
The Gophers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning of Wednesday’s matchup against South Dakota State, but they struggled on the mound and lost 13-4. Minnesota starter Cody Campbell recorded just one out before he was yanked in favor of fellow freshman pitcher Toby Anderson. Campbell walked three batters and hit two in his outing. He left the game with three baserunners on, all of whom wound up crossing the plate.
For junior pitcher Neal Kunik, the third time was the charm. After trying to walk on to the Gophers baseball team as a freshman and again as a sophomore, Kunik finally made the team his junior year. Though many would have given up after the first or second rejection, a stubborn streak persuaded Kunik to continue to pursue his dream. “[I’m] pretty hard-set in my ways, so when I set out to achieve this goal specifically, I was telling myself I wasn’t going to stop before I got it done,” Kunik said.
The Gophers returned to Big Ten play this weekend with a much-needed series victory against Michigan. Minnesota dropped two games to Michigan State last Sunday by a combined score of 20-0. That offensive slump continued into the team’s midweek game, but the Gophers were able to move past that this weekend. They beat the Wolverines on Friday and Sunday, while putting together better at-bats across the board.
Minnesota’s bats were held mostly silent, but the one run the offense did manage was just enough for its pitching staff. The Gophers shut out Augsburg 1-0 at Siebert Field on Wednesday afternoon. Minnesota’s Tuesday game against North Dakota State was postponed, so it picked up the game with Augsburg to get some extra in-game experience. The Gophers were shut out in two games on Sunday, and head coach John Anderson said he didn’t see his team make a lot of adjustments at the plate Wednesday.