The Gophers baseball team missed a chance to win the Big Ten regular-season title last weekend and probably needs to win the conference tournament this week in Indiana to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive.
Minnesota sat atop the Big Ten standings heading into last weekend’s series against middling Purdue. But the Gophers went 1-2 and got overtaken by both Nebraska and Michigan.
The Gophers fell to No. 82 in the RPI rankings, so they’ll have to regroup, looking for their first Big Ten tournament title since 2010.
Minnesota is the No. 3 seed for the eight-team, double-elimination Big Ten tournament and opens play against host Indiana, the tournament’s No. 6 seed, at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Here’s what you should know as the Gophers get the tournament started Wednesday morning:
BIG TEN OVERVIEW
The tournament winner receives an automatic NCAA bid. Four teams have good chances of receiving at-large bids even if they don’t win the conference tourney — Indiana (No. 28 in the national RPI rankings), Michigan (No. 29), Maryland (No. 33) and Nebraska (No. 41).
The Big Ten landed five NCAA berths in 2015 and three last year. The Gophers won last year’s regular-season Big Ten title but went 0-2 in the conference tournament. Minnesota sat No. 51 in the RPI rankings but still got its first NCAA berth since 2010.
The Gophers went 2-2 in last year’s NCAA tournament, getting eliminated by Texas A&M, but their story still is worth noting for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers, coached by Darin Erstad, just celebrated their first Big Ten regular-season title but remain on the NCAA bubble.
GOPHERS at a GLANCE
Minnesota leads the Big Ten with a .293 team batting average. The Gophers had two first-team all-conference selections — catcher Cole McDevitt (.308) and pitcher Lucas Gilbreath (5-2, 2.37 ERA).
Third baseman Micah Coffey (.335) and closer Brian Glowicki (1.93 ERA, 15 saves) were both second-team All-Big Ten selections. Utility man Jordan Kozicky (.340) was named to the all-freshman team and has reached base in 35 consecutive games.
The Gophers are 33-19, 16-5 on the road this season.
A first-round loss would make it extremely difficult for the Gophers to come back and win the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers always feel good with Gilbreath pitching. He pitched the Gophers to an 11-0 win at Indiana on April 14.
But the Hoosiers won the next two games in that series, 13-12 and 4-0. Indiana (32-20-2) gets to play this tournament on home, and hopes to see the benefits of playing a tough schedule.
Two of Indiana’s losses came to No. 1 ranked Oregon State (1-0 and 4-1); the Hoosiers handed No. 5 Louisville a 4-3 loss last week.
Gophers second baseman Luke Pettersen is batting .522 (12-for-23) over the past seven games and leads the team with a .343 average for the season. He’s also been impressive defensively.
The Gophers, one of the Big Ten’s top defensive teams this season, made four errors in Game 1 against Purdue last week. They’ll need to stay sharp defensively this week.