IU Loses Pitching Duel vs. Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS - In a battle between two of the top pitchers in the Big Ten, Minnesota hurler Matt Loberg outdueled Indiana starter Josh Lewis, as the Hoosier baseball team fell to the Golden Gophers, 5-0, in the series opener Friday afternoon at Siebert Field. The victory moves the five-time defending Big Ten champs to a perfect 5-0 in the Big Ten and 12-12 overall, while IU drops to 1-4 in the league and 16-10 on the season.
Loberg (5-2) tossed his first complete game of the season, scattering six hits and adding four strikeouts and no base on balls. The senior has pitched in four of the Gophers' five shutouts this season.
Lewis (5-1) was nearly as good, firing 7 1/3 innings. The junior allowed four runs in addition to punching out three and walking one.
Both pitchers breezed through the first four innings, with Lewis facing one batter over the minimum and Loberg going two over the nine-batter threshold. Lewis gave up two base hits, while Loberg only allowed a Zach Boswell single to right field in the second.
The only threat came in the bottom of the first when shortstop Matt Fornasiere singled to open the inning. After stealing second, third baseman David Hrncirik sacrificed him to third, but Lewis shut the door on the Gopher rally. He got designated hitter Mike Mee to foul out to third baseman Corby Heckman and retired first baseman Andy Hunter with a ground out to shortstop Josh Richardson.
Minnesota finally scratched across the first runs of the contest in the fifth. Catcher Jake Elder led off with a single up the middle, and designated hitter Kevin Carlson put runners on first and second after getting hit by a pitch. Attempting to move the runners up, left fielder Luke MacLean laid a perfect bunt down the third base line to load the bases.
Following a strikeout, second baseman Jeremy Chlan hit a sharp grounder to junior Jay Brant at second that appeared to be a tailor-made double play ball. However, it took a bad hop and hit Brant in the jaw, allowing Elder and Carlson to come home with the first two runs of the ballgame.
Fornasiere worked a walk to reload the bases for Hrncirik, who hit into a 4-6-3 double play to close out the inning.
Brant (0-for-2) was forced to leave the game, ending his hitting streak at 19 games. During the stretch, the Indianapolis native hit .500 (40-for-80) with two homers, 19 RBI, 34 runs and eight doubles.
Freshman David Trager replaced Brant and recorded the Hoosiers' second hit with a two-out infield single in the sixth. Senior right fielder Joe Kemp then laced a rocket to center field, but Tony Leseman was able to track it down just in front of the wall to retire the side.
The Golden Gophers added a solo tally in the sixth on an Elder sacrifice fly for a three-run lead before Indiana attempted a comeback, as Boswell kicked off a rally in the seventh. The Berrien Springs, Mich., product added his second hit of the afternoon on a line-drive single to left field.
After Heckman flied out to right for the second out, freshman designated hitter Brad Udoff ripped a base knock to center and pinch hitter Michael Nilles reached on an infield single to fill the bags. But as he did all afternoon, Loberg killed the rally, striking out Richardson to preserve the three-run lead, and Minnesota tacked on one more in the bottom half of the frame to make it 4-0.
Junior center fielder Reggie Watson and freshman catcher turned in the defensive play of the game in the eighth. Following a base hit up the middle by Carlson, Watson charged in and threw a one-hop strike to freshman catcher Jon Fixler, cutting down Hunter at the plate. Despite the web gem, the Golden Gophers still plated one run in the frame for the final 5-0 margin.
The teams return to action with a doubleheader on Saturday, April 9. First pitch for game one is slated for 1 p.m. at Siebert Field. The four-game series concludes on Sunday, April 10, with a 1 p.m. starting time.
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