MINNEAPOLIS – Zero innings, a walk and a double.
That’s all it took for Minnesota to beat pitcher Chris Fetter and the Wolverines in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Seven innings, a walk and three strikeouts.
That’s all it took for Fetter to shut down the Gophers in game two.
“I was pretty disappointed after the first game,” Fetter said. “I wanted to do anything I could to get that first game back.”
Fetter hasn’t had to worry about too many bad outings to get back from. He sported a 2.70 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 20 innings before Saturday, and he’s had a propensity for clutch performances.
Two weekends ago against Northwestern, Fetter entered the fourth inning of game three with Michigan trailing 4-2. The redshirt freshman kept his team in the game by throwing four scoreless innings, striking out four and allowing just one baserunner in the process.
Saturday, following the heartbreaking loss to Minnesota in game two of this weekend’s series, Fetter came back and started the next game, going the distance in a complete-game shutout.
“He showed a lot of intestinal fortitude to come back and pitch a shutout when our team needed it,” Maloney said. “What he just did was a championship effort.”
Maloney wasn’t sure how Fetter would react to starting so soon after giving up a game-winning hit. But pitching coach Bob Keller convinced Maloney to go with Fetter, and, by the end of the day, neither coach regretted the decision.
“I’m real proud of him,” Maloney said. “He grew up a lot (Saturday).”
We never noticed a limp: In the sixth inning of yesterday’s game, Minnesota’s Joe Maciej hit a sharp groundball up the middle of the infield and looked to have an easy single. But shortstop Leif Mahler raced toward his left, stooped down to snag the ball, spun around and whipped a throw toward first to beat Maciej by a step.
So much for that lower-body injury.
This weekend marked the return of Mahler into the everyday lineup for the Wolverines. The junior was forced to sit out most of the series against Northwestern due to an unspecified injury, according to Maloney. But Mahler showed no signs of favoring either leg while on the field, and his defense looked as impressive as ever this weekend.
“I’m feeling much better, and I think the worst of the problems are over,” Mahler said.
With Mahler back platooning at shortstop, the left side of the infield becomes almost impenetrable for Michigan. And yesterday, Mahler proved just how important he is to the team defensively.
With a runner on third and no outs in the third inning of yesterday’s game, Mahler cleanly fielded a sharp groundball and gunned the runner out at home plate, preserving the scoreless tie. In the fifth inning, Mahler made a diving grab to get a force out at second and then followed that up by starting a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and the Gopher threat.
“Leif is outstanding,” Fetter said. “I wouldn’t have any other shortstop behind me. He makes big plays at the right time. You can’t say enough about Leif.”
This is something you work on in the off-season: In the final inning of the series’ second game, it appeared Minnesota was batting out of order when its No. 8 and No. 9 hitters switched.
According to baseball rules, if a team bats out of order, that batter is automatically out. This would have had huge implications for the Wolverines, since they were guarding a three-run lead with two outs. But the Gophers, in fact, weren’t batting out of order – for that inning.
In a lineup snafu, Minnesota gave Michigan a different lineup than it gave the umpire. Minnesota had been batting out of order the entire game until the very last inning, when the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters switched back to the order according to the lineup card the umpire had – the game’s official lineup. Because the hitters weren’t batting out of order in the umpire’s lineup card, no out was called.