Friday, April 3, 2009

Minnesota Daily: Siebert opener postponed as Gophers host Ohio State at the Dome

Minnesota Student newspaper Minnesota Daily with a preview of this weekend's series.

BY Austin Cumblad
PUBLISHED: 04/02/2009

Until 2008, Minnesota and Ohio State typically played their annual series in mid-May. When the Gophers hosted, games were played at Siebert Field.

But for the second straight season, Minnesota meets the Buckeyes much earlier in the season, and thanks to the upper-Midwest’s notoriously long winters, the series will be played under protection of Teflon.

The Gophers host Ohio State at the Metrodome this weekend for the first time since the 1994 Dairy Queen Classic . The series begins tonight at 6:35 p.m. and concludes with games Saturday at 2:05 p.m. and Sunday at 12:15 p.m.

The Minnesota-Ohio State matchup is as evenly matched as it can possibly be. In 156 total meetings, the series is a level 77-77-2 . The team that takes two or three games this weekend will have the overall bragging rights — until the programs meet again at least.

“We’ve had competitive series against one another,” head coach John Anderson said. “We both have great pride in our programs … and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

The Gophers and Buckeyes each have midweek losses to shake off. Ohio State was drubbed 14-3 by Marshall Wednesday night while Minnesota was narrowly beaten by Northern Iowa, 9-7 . The games were uncharacteristic for both teams.

Arguably the top offensive team in the Big Ten this season, the Buckeyes are batting .340 as a team and have scored 242 runs in 26 games, easily outpacing Indiana’s second-ranked run total of 191 in 25 games. But Ohio State’s bats were quiet against the Thundering Herd. The Buckeyes’ production fell well short of the 9.3 runs they’re averaging this year and they managed just 11 hits compared to Marshall’s 21 .

On the other hand, Minnesota, the conference’s best team defensively in terms of fielding percentage, committed two costly errors in the sixth inning, which led to five unearned runs and the Gophers second loss of the year to the pesky Panthers.

“We didn’t help our pitchers out,” junior second baseman Derek McCallum said, but added “last night I think was a fluke.

“I think we’ll be just fine [against Ohio State] if the pitching stays the way it has on the weekends and we play defense.”

Assuming Minnesota can put Wednesday in its rearview mirror and assuming Ohio State returns to form at the plate, it will create an intriguing matchup pitting considerable offensive prowess against airtight defense and commanding pitching.

The Gophers’ staff boasts the best ERA in the Big Ten with a combined 4.06 and is allowing opponents to bat just .257 , thanks largely to Minnesota’s starting rotation of seniors Tom Buske and Chauncy Handran, and sophomore Seth Rosin. They’re kept on unwavering 100-pitch counts but consistently eat up more than six innings and keep opponents off the board with those 100 pitches. A week ago against Indiana, Handran needed just 94 pitches to work through a career-high eight innings. He allowed two earned runs on six hits.

With the Buckeyes’ run-scoring machine in town, an outing like that might be tough to come by, but the other team’s bats are never the focus as a pitcher, Rosin said.

“I’m just going to take it like every other start, just try to paint the knees and get my curveball over,” he said. “That’s all I can do.”

Minnesota Daily

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