One game after shutting out Indiana State, the IU baseball team got a taste of its own medicine as it was kept off the scoreboard Friday night against Minnesota.
Minnesota, now 21-8 on the season, entered the game leading the Big Ten with a 6-0-conference record and remained undefeated after beating IU, 11-0. This was only the second time the Hoosiers have been shutout all season.
The Golden Gophers hit every pitcher the Hoosiers, 17-14-2, sent to the mound and crushed them all to the tune of 20 hits, the most given up by IU this season.
IU failed to achieve the same offensive success and could only muster two hits against strong Minnesota pitching.
The Hoosiers had two times as many players hit by pitches as they had hits.
Command is usually seen as an issue when a pitcher plunks four hitters, but it didn’t prove to be a big concern for Minnesota junior lefty Lucas Gilbreath, who also struck out eight Hoosiers.
Gilbreath moved to 4-0 on the year for Minnesota after Friday’s seven-and-two-thirds-innings outing.
“It was tough all around,” IU Coach Chris Lemonis said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in our league and the key to beating him was trying to lay off some pitches out of the zone and we were too aggressive early. Tip your hat to that guy. He came in here and threw a good game.”
IU’s starting pitching woes resurfaced when sophomore pitcher Jonathan Stiever gave up a leadoff home run to Minnesota junior center fielder Alex Boxwell in the first inning and then a double to sophomore shortstop Terrin Vavra, the Golden Gophers’ second batter.
Minnesota only pushed two across in the first and remained silent until the fifth inning.
Then the bats made some noise.
The Golden Gophers sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth, which resulted in five runs and an ugly pitching line for IU’s Stiever. The sophomore allowed seven earned runs on 13 hits over just four and one-thirds innings pitched.
After five innings, Minnesota was 14-26, .538, at the plate with a walk as a team.
Every single Minnesota starting position player got a hit in the ballgame, but none provided as much of an impact as senior right fielder Matt Stemper.
Stemper went 3-5 on the night with a home run, a double and five runs batted in. He finished just a triple shy of the cycle.
Two other Golden Gophers finished the game just one leg shy of the cycle. Vavra also ended a triple shy and went 3-5 with a homer, a double, two runs batted in and two runs scored. Junior first baseman Toby Hanson was a homer away with a triple, a double and two runs scored on 3-5 hitting.
“It was a butt-kicking,” Lemonis said. “It is what it is. It shows a lot about your character how you come out and play the next day.”
IU freshman pitcher Andrew Saalfrank was unable to build upon his two perfect innings against Indiana State and allowed a run on four hits over one and two-thirds innings. However, the Hoagland, Indiana native struck out three Golden Gophers.
Lemonis then called upon freshman Brad Littleton to replace Saalfrank, but Littleton fared even worse, and gave up three earned runs on two hits in just two-thirds of an inning pitched.
Junior pitcher Kade Kryzsko was the only IU pitcher to avoid giving up a run, as he struck out five batters and gave up just one hit in two and one-third innings pitched.
“I don’t even give a big speech after a game like this,” Lemonis said. “Sometimes I get on them, but in our game you have to be able to jump back and play the next day and hopefully that’s what we’ll do. It’s a big series, they know it and we prepared well. We had a really good week and that’s why this is a little surprising, but it’s baseball.”
Game two of the weekend series is set for 2:05 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Bart Kaufman Field.
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