After every game, Chris Lemonis huddles with his players in the outfield.
Some nights, the Indiana coach might have a long list of points to raise. On others, particularly after a loss, Lemonis might take that time to scold the mistakes that cost the Hoosiers the ballgame.
Lemonis took neither approach following Friday’s 11-0 loss to Minnesota, choosing instead to be direct and succinct.
“I said it was a butt-kicking and it is what it is,” Lemonis said. “I don’t think I had to go through the whole game (for them) to realize it.”
First-place Minnesota (21-8, 7-0) controlled the three-game series opener at the plate and from the mound, collecting 20 hits for the first time since 2010 and holding Hoosier hitters to merely a pair of singles.
It all added up to IU’s second shutout defeat of the season and the Hoosiers’ third consecutive Friday-night loss in Big Ten play. The Gophers clubbed three home runs, recorded nine extra-base hits and saw six of their hitters collect multiple hits.
Minnesota starter Lucas Gilbreath was equally in control from the mound, working 7 2/3 innings, allowing only early singles to Matt Gorski and Jeremy Houston and finishing with eight strikeouts.
“It was tough all around,” Lemonis said. “(He’s) one of the best pitchers in our league, obviously, but the key to beating him was laying off some pitches out of the zone. We were too aggressive early. Tip your hat to that guy. He came in here and threw a great game.”
Although Indiana (17-14-2, 4-5-1) hasn’t won a Friday Big Ten opener since March 24, it has recently received a string of solid starts from their weekend pitchers during the past two weeks.
That includes Jonathan Stiever, this year’s Friday starter. Stiever, who took the mound for his seventh start of the season, hasn’t walked a batter since issuing back-to-back free passes at the end of his season debut on Feb. 17 against Oregon State.
This time, Stiever’s penchant for living in the strike zone was his fatal flaw. The sophomore left too many pitchers up in the zone, yielding 13 hits in 4 1/3 innings, and getting charged with seven earned runs.
“We felt like he was missing up all day long,” Lemonis said. “They’re a good offensive team and they took advantage of it. It’s kind of one of those nights in baseball. It seemed like every ball they hit was in the gap or something else, so just tip your cap to those guys.”
Stiever allowed an opposite field, lead-off home run to Minnesota’s Alex Boxwell to start the game, then gave up an RBI liner to Matt Stemper on a ball that deflected off the glove of a leaping Luke Miller at third base.
After that two-run first inning, Stiever minimized harm for much of his outing, working his way out of varying degrees of danger.
Then the Gophers tagged Stiever for five runs in the fifth, using a solo homer from Terrin Vavra and a three-run shot from Stemper. Luke Pettersen added a one-out RBI sacrifice fly that scored Jordan Smith — a run that was charged to Stiever.
Reliever Andrew Saalfrank was charged with a run of his own in the sixth, when Stemper lined a 3-1 pitch to left-centerfield for a double that scored Toby Hanson.
Brad Littleton allowed three runs in the seventh, including a two-run single to Micah Coffey. Later, Kade Kryzsko offered the pitching highlight of the night, striking out five batters during the final 2 1/3 innings.
“I thought Kade was good at the end,” Lemonis said. “That was the bright spot.”
The series resumes Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. with IU right-hander Brian Hobbie (2-3, 4.86 ERA) facing Minnesota right-hander Brett Schulze (3-2, 4.25 ERA).