Gophers baseball coach John Anderson and softball coach Jamie Trachsel have a lot in common this season.
Coming off successful 2018 campaigns, both programs have received a lot of positive attention in preseason polls, having lost some important players from last year while welcoming key additions.
And both teams face daunting schedules in the first six weeks of the season.
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After winning the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles last season and advancing to a Super Regional for the first time, the Gophers baseball team was picked as the favorite to win the Big Ten this season and has been ranked as high as No. 24 in preseason polls.
“It’s nice to be recognized nationally,” Anderson said, “but preseason rankings can be based on how you did last year. We have some outstanding pitchers returning and a good nucleus of position players. But we lost five good players. We have enough ability to be competitive, but it’s going to take some time to figure out our lineup.”
Among the players who didn’t return for the Gophers, who went 1-3 in Arizona in their opening weekend, are first-team All-America shortstop Terrin Vavra and pitcher Reggie Meyer. Both signed professional contracts after their junior seasons. Also missing is Rob Fornasiere, who retired after 33 seasons as Anderson’s top assistant coach.
Among the key returners are pitchers Patrick Frederickson, last year’s Big Ten Freshman and Pitcher of the Year, and Max Meyer, an All-Big Ten First Team selection who is on this year’s “Stopper of the Year” watch list. Last season, Fredrickson was 9-0 with a 1.86 ERA while Meyer was 2-3 with 16 saves and a 2.06 ERA.
The Gophers roster has been bolstered by a nine-player recruiting class, which was ranked No. 37 by Collegiate Baseball.
The Gophers will play their first 21 games on the road this season. After playing 13 nonconference games at U.S. Bank Stadium last year, the facility is unavailable this year because of the men’s basketball Final Four.
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The Gophers softball team, which has won the Big Ten Tournament three consecutive seasons, was ranked as high as No. 21 in preseason polls.
The Gophers, who return seven starters and 14 letter winners from last year’s 41-17 squad, are led by first-team All-Big Ten pitcher Amber Fiser, who was 27-10 with a 1.69 ERA last season.
One player who didn’t return is catcher Kendyl Lindaman, the Big Ten Player of the Year the past two years. Lindaman transferred to Florida in December.
The Gophers have gotten an early boost from transfer Hope Brandner. Brandner, a sophomore from Vacaville, Calif., spent her freshman season at Oregon State. She is hitting .400 with three home runs and 10 RBI.
“We returned our entire pitching staff,” said Trachsel, “and we feel every time Amber has the ball we’ll be competitive. We had a good fall and a good January. We’ve gotten great leadership. We’re excited about this team and we’ll grind it out and keep getting better.”