The early Saturday afternoon was glorious on the sprawling property of the University of Minnesota, unless your destination was Siebert Field and you were looking for a parking spot.
Parking is never easy over there near the ballpark squeezed against the railroad tracks on a far end of campus. On this day, there was a United soccer game starting at TCF Bank Stadium and a Gophers softball game at Cowles Stadium, both starting a few minutes after 1 p.m.
The baseball contest – Game 2 of a Gophers-Indiana series – was set for 2 p.m.
The head start for soccer and softball attendees for parking basically meant that a good share of the baseball crowd had only one hope: lax enforcement by the university gendarmes.
Indiana came into the weekend standing 20th in RPI for Division I baseball, and the Gophers were 28th. Reggie Meyer went eight strong innings, and the unrelated freshman, Max Meyer, got three outs in the ninth in a 4-1 victory for the Gophers on Friday night.
On Saturday, the home team was sending out Patrick Fredrickson, another freshman and 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in five Big Ten starts. He was opposing Cam Beauchamp, a sophomore lefthander, and part of the Indiana’s deep and well-regarded staff.
Fredrickson is 6-foot-6 and rail-thin. He has a flinging motion from three-quarters – a little deception to go with a good combination of pitches. The first two innings could not have been easier for him.
He was leading 3-0 into the third, when the Hoosiers opened with a single, a walk and then a sacrifice. Yeah, they bunted two runners over while down three runs … college overmanaging at its finest.
Fredrickson then went to a 3-0 count on Logan Kaletha. He worked the count back to 3-2, and then Kaletha took strike three.
Billy Soule Sr., a baseball man who never misses a Gophers home game, said: “That’s Fredrickson right there. That kid always throws the right pitch.’’
Fredrickson got out of the third when center fielder Alex Boxwell used his speed to run down Scott Bradley’s drive to the 370-foot sign in left center field.
The Hoosiers challenged him again in the fourth. Fredrickson caused part of that problem by throwing past first on a throw-over to keep a runner close. The ball went into the open spaces and the Indiana runner went to third.
Eventually, it was first-and-third with one out, and the batter was power threat Luke Miller. Fredrickson struck him out on a breaking ball – and that was Indiana’s last gasp.
Fredrickson wound up going seven scoreless innings and allowing two hits. The Gophers kept adding on to three first-innings runs and won the game, 9-1, to stay tied with Michigan (13-3) for first place in the Big Ten.
When it comes to a lineup, this team seems to be more loaded than the 2016 club that won the regular-season title. A major reason for that is the good health of Terrin Vavra, now a junior.
Vavra was a freshman standout on the 2016 team, before encountering a back problem that knocked him out of the lineup. He dealt with that again in 2017. This season, his back has been OK, allowing Vavra to emerge as a difference-making shortstop.
Consider the fifth inning on Saturday: Fredrickson was in a need of an easy inning after battling through the third and the fourth, and Vavra gave him the second out by diving to his left to snare a rocket of a line drive. And then Vavra came up and pulled a home run way back in right field.
This is an experienced club that hits, catches the ball and has some depth. What it needed was young pitching to come through, and that’s happened with the outstanding work of Fredrickson and closer Max Meyer.
The Sunday starter behind Reggie Meyer and Fredrickson has been in flux. Sam Thoresen, another freshman, will start against the Hoosiers. He went three innings in a start last Sunday vs. Ohio State.
The two wins vs. Indiana allowed the Gophers to put behind the ugly finish to the series at Ohio State. They were going to get a third out in the ninth and complete a sweep, when a Buckeye runner crashed into first baseman Cole McDevitt, knocking the ball loose and allowing two decisive runs to score.
A couple of days later, the Big Ten office confirmed to Anderson that the runner should have been called out to end the game in the Gophers' favor.
"It was just confirmation of what we already knew,'' Anderson said. "It's still a loss in the standings.''