Gophers Host Spartans in Home Opener

 Minnesota (13-7, 2-1) vs. Michigan State (10-10, 1-2)
Date/Time

 Sat., March 29 - 2:05 p.m.
 Sun., March 30 - 11 a.m. and approx. 2 p.m. 

Game 1 Probable Pitchers  RHP Alec Crawford (2-1) vs. RHP Mick VanVossen (4-0)
Game 2 Probable Pitchers
 LHP Jordan Jess (0-3) vs. RHP Justin Alleman (2-1)
Game 3 Probable Pitchers  RHP Ben Meyer (2-1) vs. TBA
Location  Minneapolis, Minn. | Siebert Field
Online Video  All-Access (subscription)
Game Day Live  Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
Social Media  @GopherBaseball | Facebook
Game Notes  Minnesota Get Acrobat Reader | Michigan State

March 27, 2014

LAST WEEKEND
• The Gophers opened Big Ten play with a 2-1 series win against Northwestern in St. Charles, Mo. (moved from Evanston).
• The Gophers opened the series by winning the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, 5-1. Alec Crawford stranded 10 Wildcats baserunners and gave up just one run in a seven-inning start. Michael Handel  hit a grand slam in the first inning.
• Minnesota dropped the second game of the day 4-3. Reliever Toby Anderson pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings, but the Gophers were already behind and could not catch up.
Ben Meyer pitched a complete game as the Gophers won the series finale 2-1 Sunday. Tony Skjefte’s double drove in the only runs Minnesota needed.

GOPHER NOTABLES
• The Gophers lead the all-time series with Michigan State 86-37. Last year’s series was canceled. The Spartans won two of the three games between the teams in 2012.
• Minnesota’s win against Northwestern last Saturday brought the Gophers’ record in Big Ten openers to 17-6 in the last 23 years.
• Minnesota has not lost its Big Ten-opening series since 1995. After the loss to Iowa that year, Minnesota has since won 13 conference-opening series, including the last five in a row, and split six.
• The Gopher pitching staff enters the weekend ranked third in the Big Ten in opposing batting average (.259) and fourth in ERA (3.27). 

ABOUT THE SPARTANS
• Michigan State went 1-2 in a home series against Ohio State played in Columbus last weekend. The Spartans won the opener 7-6 on Ryan Krill’s walkoff RBI single. The Buckeyes took the next two games 6-2 and 1-0.
• Designated hitter Blaise Salter leads the Michigan State offense with a .301 batting average and 15 RBI.
• Right-hander Mick VanVossen leads the Spartans’ starting rotation with a 2.37 ERA, 4-0 record and 27 strikeouts in six starts. Jake Lowery has made 10 appearances out of the bullpen and has a 1.93 ERA, two saves and a win.
• The Spartans have beaten two top-25 teams this year in No. 1 Oregon State and No. 21 TCU (twice).

WALK THIS WAY
Minnesota has walked 93 times this season, 32 more times than it has walked its opponents. The Gophers rank third in the Big Ten in walks and second in walks allowed (61). Connor Schaefbauer has walked 15 times, tied for fourth in the conference. Michael Handel (14) and Jordan Smith (13) are close behind him. 

SHUTTING THEM DOWN ON SUNDAYS
In each of his last four starts, junior right-hander Ben Meyer has given up only one run. Last Sunday, he pitched a complete game in the Gophers’ 2-1 win against Northwestern. Meyer collected his first win of the year by holding Louisiana Tech to one run on two hits in seven innings March 2. On March 9, he again pitched seven innings against UNC Greensboro, tying a career high with six strikeouts while surrendering just one run on five hits. Meyer struck out six and held Sacramento State to one run on six hits March 16. Meyer’s 2.13 ERA and 38.0 innings pitched lead Minnesota’s strarting corps. His ERA in his four most recent games is 1.24. 

SAWYER LEADS THE BULLPEN
Left-hander Dalton Sawyer has pitched 15.0 innings, more than any other Gopher reliever, and has yet to allow an earned run. He has only given up one unearned run and held opposing batters to a .208 average, as well as earning a win and three saves. Neal Kunik also has a 0.00 ERA. Kunik has one win and 4 1/3 scoreless innings pitched. 

CATCHING CAROUSEL
A series of injuries has resulted in four different Gophers starting at catcher this season. Senior Matt Halloran caught the first game of the season, but freshman Austin Athmann became the regular backstop after that. Redshirt junior Mark Tatera caught a few games during that time, until an injury to Athmann made Tatera the first option. Tatera caught every game of the Sacramento State and Northwestern series. Redshirt freshman Troy Traxler started the Tuesday Saint Mary’s game, and caught most of the Wednesday game as a substitute.