Minnesota baseball looking to turn mid-season momentum into a strong finish
Minnesota has won 16 of 18 games and put itself in the conversation for hosting an NCAA Tournament regional after a weekend sweep of nationally ranked Indiana.
The Gophers (32-12, 14-3) are as high as No. 15 in the major polls and tied with Michigan for the Big Ten lead. They have a favorable finishing schedule as they try to win the conference regular-season title for the second time in three years.
Minnesota ranks at or near the top in the Big Ten offensively, defensively and on the mound. The challenge now becomes mental, coach John Anderson said Monday.
"People are talking about you, writing about you, and everybody has expectations for you," he said. "We've been real good about staying connected to our own values and doing what we want to do every day. That's what will be interesting down the stretch here, to see if we can stay connected. If we get connected to the scoreboard and standings and regionals, it's going to take away from the focus that needs to be on our play."
The Gophers took down the top pitching team in the Big Ten in Indiana, winning the first two games by a combined 13-2 and completing the sweep with a 7-6 win in 10 innings.
Shortstop Terrin Vavra was 6 for 7 with two home runs, a double and five RBIs against the Hoosiers. He is batting .405 after overcoming back problems that bothered him the last two years.
Freshman Patrick Fredrickson, who allowed two hits over seven innings on Saturday, is 7-0 with a 1.44 ERA in a team-leading 68 2/3 innings. Fellow freshman Max Meyer has 12 saves to go with his 1.95 ERA.
"Our young pitching staff has performed at a level you could not have predicted," Anderson said.
The April weather tested the Gophers. What was supposed to be a home series against Penn State was moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, because of snow. Snow cover on Siebert Field forced the first two games of the home series against Iowa to be played at Target Field. The games against Indiana marked the first complete series Minnesota has played at Siebert.
Luke Pettersen talks to BTN postgame after his walk-off winner. pic.twitter.com/VEARCiZMRS— Minnesota Baseball (@GopherBaseball) May 6, 2018
Anderson likes the demeanor of his players, given the resolve they've showed during the harsh spring. They've been eager to play wherever they've been told to go, he said.
"They've walked the talk pretty much every single day," he said. "If I'm a betting man, I have to bet that they are going to stay focused here on the process of just trying to compete and play the game at a high level."
Anderson has coached 19 teams that have made regionals, and only one has hosted.
"Not an everyday occurrence," he said. "It's not Florida State."
Arkansas-Pine Bluff left-hander Peyton Burks became the third pitcher this season to go 10 innings. Burks threw 144 pitches Sunday in a 6-2 win over Prairie View A&M. His long outing came on only three days' rest following a 4 1/3-inning, 96-pitch relief stint in a loss to Mississippi.
FROGS BOUNCING BACK?
TCU (27-18), which made the College World Series four straight years, has won six straight and eight of nine since getting swept at Baylor. The current streak included a shutout streak of 42 2/3 innings.
ON THE DOUBLE
Lehigh set a national season high with 13 doubles in a 27-2 victory over winless Saint Peter's last Wednesday. Ryan Malloy had three doubles and nine of his teammates each had at least one.