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Gophers Baseball Cracks Top 25 After Taking A Pair From TCU

I need to get a sweater like #57.  This was your 1956 National Champion Gophers squad.  This really isn't relevant, but I like the picture.

After a successful weekend in Fort Worth, winning two of three from a nationally ranked team, the Gophers (10-4) have found themselves among the top 25 teams in the country according to Baseball America.  We are the only team above the Mason-Dixon line in this top 25.  I mention this because southern schools dominate college baseball largely because they can play year round, and thus have better facilities.  The Gophers do have the advantage of having the Metrodome (at least there is one baseball team that likes having it around!), which allows them to play home games in February.  The three game set against TCU marked the beginning of an eleven game road trip, including eight in Texas, culminating with the opening of the Big 10 season in Bloomington, Indiana, over the weekend without any off days.

The Golden Gophers were actually quite fortunate to come out on top in the first game on Saturday.  They hung on to win 6-4 behind a three-run eighth inning despite giving the Horned Frogs every chance to win the game.  After jumping out to an early three run lead, the Gophers got sloppy in the field.  A passed ball in the third inning later allowed a run to score from third on a sacrifice fly to trim the lead to 3-1.  In the fourth inning, TCU was able to tie up the game thanks to two Gophers errors.  Yet another error in the fifth led to TCU's first lead, putting them up 4-3.  All things considered, the Gophers actually did well to only be down one with runners getting on base with regularity.  A Kyle Knudson double scored two in the top of the 8th and Knudson later scored as well on a Nick O'Shea single.  The Gophers then found themselves in trouble again in the bottom of the ninth when Cullen Sexton walked the bases loaded while only retiring one; Cullen had previously pitched two scoreless innings while striking out four.  Scott Matyas came in to get the final two outs and record his first save of the season.

Game two on Sunday was practically over before it began.  The Gophers scored seven runs in the first inning.  TCU starting pitcher Sean Hoelscher was the benefactor of two of walks, three hits, a wild pitch, a hit batter, and a botched pickoff attempt--all in one-third of an inning.  If there was a golden sombrero for pitching, that might be it.  After Hoelscher was relieved, Gophers shortstop and number nine hitter AJ Petterson broke it open with a two-run triple.  Petterson later scored and the Gophers never looked back en route to a 7-2 victory.  Starting pitcher Tom Buske went 6.1 strong innings yielding four hits, two walks, while fanning seven, and allowing just one earned run.  Scott Fern pitched the final 2.2 innings while striking out 3 giving the Gophers ten k's on the day.

Monday night's final game of the series looked to be the beginning of a sweep in the early going.  TCU starting freshman pitcher Kyle Winkler started off the game by hitting DH Matt Nohelty who soon stole second.  However, the freshman hurler caught Nohelty too far off second and picked him off.  The Gophers then followed with a walk and single to put runners on first and second with one out.  Right fielder Michael Kvasnicka delivered another single, but 3B Kyle Geason was thrown out at the plate-the second runner making an out on the bases in the inning.  After the Gophers failed to score in the first, 1B Nick O'Shea belted a solo homerun in the second to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead.  The Horned Frogs responded in the third with a pair of runs and gained a lead they would never relinquish.  The game stayed tight with TCU adding two-out runs in both the 7th and 8th innings.    The story of the game had to be the freshman on the mound for TCU.  After a rough first two innings Winkler settled down and allowed just one run on six hits and three walks over eight innings while striking out ten.  Other than homer by O'Shea, Derek McCallum was the lone bright spot offensively for the Gophers going 3-3 with a walk.

Up next for the Gophers is two games with Texas-Arlington and three against Dallas Baptist before a three game set in Bloomington.