Gophers close home season with Maryland

Published 7:46 pm Friday, May 10, 2019

The Gophers baseball team wraps up its home season this weekend hosting Maryland at Siebert Field for a three-game Big Ten Conference series.

Minnesota (22-23, 11-7 Big Ten) returns to campus to take on Maryland (23-25, 8-10 Big Ten) for just the third series all-time against the newest league rival. Wednesday’s Dollar Dog Night promotion has been shifted to Friday’s series opener with the Terrapins. The first 100 students will receive a free hot dog, while everyone else can enjoy one for just $1. Saturday’s game will air on Big Ten Network and will be Rob Fornasiere Night at Siebert Field, while Sunday’s game will be Senior Day and the home finale.

Last time out

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Minnesota earned a shutout victory of the season against South Dakota State on Friday night. J.P. Massey threw 4.1 innings, Nick Lackney earned the win out of the bullpen continuing his scoreless stretch at home, and the Gophers got all the offense they needed when Easton Bertrand and Eduardo Estrada, Jr. each doubled in the first.

Against the competition

Minnesota took 2-of-3 from Maryland in their last series at Siebert Field back in the 2016 season, but the recent addition to the Big Ten leads 4-2 in the all-time series. Only Estrada (a walk in one plate appearance) and Nick Lackney, who allowed a hit and got two outs in a relief appearance against the Terrapins, have faced Maryland in their Gopher careers.

Going streaking

Estrada currently leads Minnesota with a five-game hitting streak, while Riley Smith has a base knock in four straight. Ben Mezzenga has reached base in eight-straight games, currently leading the Gophers in that regard. Eli Wilson owns the team’s longest hitting streak earlier this year at 10 games and reached base streak at 14.

Line drives

Minnesota’s bullpen threw 18.0 shutout innings against Ohio State, including holding the Buckeyes scoreless over the final 10.2 of Saturday’s 18-inning thriller … Riley Smith scored the game-winning run in the 18th inning on Saturday and drove in the game winner with an RBI double in the eighth inning of game three Sunday … Lackney has thrown 16.2 innings at Siebert Field this season without allowing a run in five appearances … Brett Schulze matched his career high (original set as a starter) with his nine strikeouts against OSU … Minnesota played both its longest (5:45, 18 innings) and shortest (2:18) games of the season against Ohio State this past weekend … the Gophers’ 5-0 shutout victory over South Dakota State was the first of the year for the staff … Minnesota needs just 20 strikeouts to match the team single season record of 245.

NCAA superlatives

Minnesota’s line-up currently ranks no. 58 nationally averaging 1.93 doubles per game, a total of 87 this season, but the pitching staff has been the strength for the Maroon & Gold this year. Gopher hurlers rank no. 31 nationally with 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings, no. 42 with 8.05 hits allowed per nine, and no. 79 with a 4.23 ERA. Cole McDevitt leads the offense with his 15 doubles, ranking no. 89 nationally. On the mound, Meyer ranks no. 50 with his 2.18 ERA, no. 67 with a 1.04 WHIP, and no. 79 with 79 strikeouts. Brett Schulze ranks no. 95 in appearances at 23.

One for the books

Minnesota survived 18 innings against Ohio State last Saturday with a 5-4 win.  The 5-hour, 45-minute marathon was among the longest games in NCAA history and the longest in recent Gophers history, surpassing a 16-inning 3-2 victory over Hamline at the Metrodome back on March 7, 2012. As a team, Minnesota posted its most at-bats (58), walks (15), sacrifice bunts (4), hit batters (6), and runners left on base (27). In the field, the Gophers had 54 putouts and 20 assists. On the mound, Minnesota collected 22 strikeouts. Individually, the Gophers set 36 single-game highs against the Buckeyes.

A record run

Brett Schulze suffered a rare defeat last week against No. 23 Indiana, ending his program record 14-0 unbeaten decision streak over a span of 45 appearances. His last previous defeat came in his final decision of the 2017 season on May 19, throwing 4.2 innings against Purdue back in his freshman season. The record had been held by Dan Morgan, winning 12-straight decisions in 1976-77.

Double vision

Minnesota has now played five weather-necessitated doubleheaders this season and are 5-5 in twin bills. The Gopher bullpen has tossed 48.1 innings in those 10 games to the tune of a 2.42 ERA, striking out 53 while allowing 34 hits and 28 walks. Ryan Duffy has thrown 7.1 shutout innings in three appearances. Jordan Kozicky leads the Minnesota offense with four home runs, batting .405 with 12 RBI and 10 runs scored.

Rob Fornasiere Night

Minnesota will honor recently retired assistant head coach Rob Fornasiere on Saturday night at Siebert Field. Fornasiere wore #12 for the Gophers for 33 seasons on the staff of head coach John Anderson, earning the well-deserved title of ABCA Assistant Coach of the Year in 2008 and was named to the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2018 despite never coaching at the high school level. At Minnesota, he helped guide the Gophers to nine Big Ten Regular Season titles, eight Big Ten Tournament titles, and 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, producing 25 All-America selections, eight Big Ten Player of the Year award winners, and 54 First Team All-Big Ten honorees.

Climbing the All-Time Wins list

John Anderson moved into 25th place all-time among NCAA head coaches this weekend, now with 1,310 victories to his name. He stands within striking distance of Valdosta State’s Pete Dunn (1,312) and Stetson’s Joe Roberts (1,314) to continue his ascent. He ranks third among current NCAA I coaches and eighth among active coaches at all levels. Already the Big Ten’s winningest coach, “14” sits just 12 victories away from 600 against conference competition.

Golden Spikes Award

Max Meyer earned a spot on USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award Midseason Watch List last week. Meyer is just the third Gopher to land among the Midseason honorees and first since Tom Windle (2013). He currently leads the Gophers in ERA and ranks among the team leaders in batting average. Meyer was one of 19 players to remain on the Midseason List after also being selected in the Preseason.

Preseason All-Americans

Sophomore pitchers Patrick Fredrickson and Meyer received Preseason All-America recognition from four organizations to begin 2019. Fredrickson landed Second Team selections from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, NCBWA, and Perfect Game, and a Third Team pick from D1Baseball. Meyer landed on D1Baseball’s First Team, the Second Team from both NCBWA and Perfect Game, and Third Team from Collegiate Baseball.

B1G Time Favorite

Big Ten coaches selected the defending champion Gophers to repeat in the Big Ten Preseason Coaches Poll. Mezzenga and hurlers Fredrickson and Meyer were each chosen as Players to Watch in league play this season. Fredrickson, the reigning Big Ten Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, and Meyer each received First Team All-Big Ten honors last year, while Mezzenga was a Second Team selection.

Returning All-Big Ten selections

Minnesota earned seven All-Big Ten selections last season in addition to John Anderson earning the 2018 Big Ten Coach of the Year award. The Gophers return the Big Ten Freshman and Pitcher of the Year in starting pitcher Patrick Fredrickson and fellow All-Big Ten First Team selection relief pitcher Max Meyer as well as Second Team outfielder Ben Mezzenga. Senior infielder/catcher Cole McDevitt also returns having earned an All-Big Ten First Team selection back in 2017.

Gophers in the pros

Minnesota currently has eight alumni serving time in MLB organizations, with three more signed on to play major professional baseball with the American Association, including a pair in St. Paul. They are Micah Coffey (‘18), Lucas Gilbreath (‘17), Ben Meyer (‘15), Jackson Rose (‘18), Dalton Sawyer (‘16), Terrin Vavra (‘18), and Tom Windle (‘13). D.J. Snelten (‘13) will join the Chicago Dogs and Alex Boxwell (‘18) the Gary South Shore Rail Cats while Jordan Jess (‘16) and Dan Motl (‘16) will compete with the St. Paul Saints.

Minnesota baseball fans can enjoy just three more chances to catch the Maroon & Gold on campus this season. Single-game tickets remain available for all Gopher home games this weekend.