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Minnesota Baseball: #20 Gophers move into first place after sweep of #15 Indiana

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Power at the plate and great pitching puts Gophers into a 1st place tie with Michigan

Gophersports.com

John Anderson’s nine had a fantastic weekend to take all three games from an Indiana squad that was previously a top 20 team in terms of RPI as well as all top 25 rankings. Coming into the weekend the Gophers trailed Michigan by one game in the Big Ten standings, but Indiana was a consensus top team in the conference, despite lagging in the standings.

But the Gophers put great pitching on the mound, hit for power and played some great defense to sweep the Hoosiers.

Over the last few weeks the Gophers have been getting elite pitching from their top 2 starters. Reggie Meyer has 2-0 in his last 3 starts pitching 22 innings and giving up just 4 earned runs. Then the Gophers follow up Meyer with their freshman breakout pitcher, Patrick Fredrickson. If Meyer’s last three starts are impressive, Fredrickson’s line is 22 23 innings pitched, 1 earned run allowed and 19 strikeouts. This 1-2 punch on the mound gives the Gophers a great chance to win any series and often in position to sweep.

And that is exactly what occurred this past weekend. Meyer was dominant on Friday while the Gophers put together 4 runs to win game one 4-1. Fredrickson one-upped Meyer on Saturday by pitching even better as the lineup pounded out 3 homeruns and won 9-1.

Sunday was a completely different story. Trailing most of the game, the Gophers needed a 3-run bottom of the 8th to tie things up before getting a walk-off single by Luke Petterson to win it in the 10th. The Minnesota lineup put 4 balls over the fence in this game as the lineup continues to be the best hitting team in the Big Ten.

Terrin Vavra had an outstanding weekend at the plate. The Big Ten’s #2 hitter in terms of batting average went 6/7 with 3 runs, 5 RBIs and 2 HRs. Certainly a leading candidate for a Big Ten Player of the Week award. Fredrickson and Meyer both should be candidates to be this week’s Pitcher of the Week.

I was able to get out to the game on Saturday and I was able to catch the end of Sunday’s game on BTN. Let me tell you, this team is a complete team. They play great defense, they have 2 elite pitchers and the best hitting team in the league.

Looking ahead, there are two Big Ten series left before the Big Ten Tournament. The standings at the top are tight. Minnesota and Michigan are tied for first with an red-hot Purdue club only a game back. In mid-April the Gophers swept a 2-game series at Purdue, since then the Boilermakers have won 10 consecutive Big Ten games to put themselves in contention for a regular season title. Their challenge is that they face two of the top 4 teams in their remaining series. Here are the remaining series for the top 3 Big Ten teams.

Minnesota (14-3 in conference)

  • Michigan State (8-9)
  • @Rutgers (7-11)

Michigan (14-3)

  • Illinois (11-7)
  • @Purdue (13-4)

Purdue (13-4)

  • @Ohio State (11-7)
  • Michigan (14-3)

Clearly the Gophers have the easiest remaining schedule and one would think that winning 4 of their remaining 6 is not only a reasonable expectation, but should give them a great shot of at least a share of their 24th Big Ten regular season title.

But what about beyond that? With the sweep of Indiana, the Gophers RPI jumped from 20 to 14th in the country. Not only are they now in position to win the Big Ten, but this team has a chance at earning the opportunity to host a Regional. The NCAA Baseball tournament will begin with 16 regional sites. To get that honor, they’ll need to finish strong, do well in the Big Ten Tournament, possibly beat a good St. John’s team next Tuesday and then hope that they aren’t penalized too much for being a northern baseball team.

Having 2 elite pitchers at the top of the rotation will help them early in any post-season scenario. The team continues to struggle to find a reliable 3rd starter, but that may be the only real concerning weakness on this team.

This team is quite good and count on coverage here as they push towards the post season and hope to make some noise this year in the NCAA Tournament.