Gophers baseball team will have to hit the road - hard

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 14, 2014 - 12:13 AM

John Anderson’s team won’t play at home for six weeks.

hide

University of Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson talked to his players during practice Wednesday.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

If the first six weeks of the Gophers’ baseball season looks like an airport-and-hotel-room nightmare to coach John Anderson — and it does — at least it’s a recurring one. Wait, is that an advantage?

“Well, we try to make it one,” Minnesota’s Hall of Fame coach said as he prepared to enter his 33rd season managing the Gophers. “We went through it in 2011, so it’s a recent memory. Though we tried to forget some of it.”

That year, the Gophers were displaced by the Metrodome roof collapse. This time, the entire building will be gone, and with it, any chance of practicing outdoors or playing a home game before March 26. Until then, the Gophers will jet each weekend to Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, California. Those diamonds will be warmer, but as the Gophers learned three years ago, it’s not as much fun as it sounds.

“We had bus breakdowns, flight cancellations, bad weather,” Anderson recalls of that season, in which the Minnesota nomads, coming off a Big Ten championship year, went 8-8 and endured six washouts before coming home, a grind that spilled over into a disappointing season. “The kids are young, they’re resilient. But it’s not easy.”

Anderson cites the ability to develop some team chemistry during all the flights and bus rides, and just the sheer joy of playing actual games for the first time in months instead of being limited to cooped-up drills indoors, as an advantage. The players will have to be especially disciplined about schoolwork, not to mention warding off fatigue of traveling.

“It’s about task management and planning,” said senior Dan Olinger. “It’s worth it to thaw out a little bit.”

The Gophers, 32-22 last year, aren’t projected by Big Ten coaches to finish in the top six and qualify for the conference tournament, but they are heartened by recent history; Purdue, champion in 2012, hadn’t won the league since 1909, and Indiana last year finished on top for the first time since 1949. If they survive their schedule, Anderson said he believes the Gophers have a team built to surprise in the increasingly competitive Big Ten: some promising young hitters, some finally-healthy veterans — and one of the best pitching staffs he’s ever coached.

“We’re going to have a deep and talented staff,” Anderson said, and perhaps the hardest-throwing collection of arms in Gophers history. Minnesota had the second-best ERA in the Big Ten last year, and the highest strikeout rate, and while two starters graduated, the threesome of Alec Crawford, Jordan Jess and Ben Meyer give the Gophers a formidable rotation of 90-mph-plus throwers.

Crawford had knee surgery last February, “and it made it tough to pitch right away” the senior righthander, who still managed to post a 2.28 ERA in 51 innings as a junior. “I’m stronger now, and I feel a lot more in command out there.”

“Last fall, he took it to another level,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘He’s running it up there at 92, 93 [mph]. His breaking ball is sharper and he’s got a good changeup. I see him as the type of pitcher we’re used to having in the No. 1 slot here.”

The bullpen is stocked with power arms, too, including Eden Prairie alum Lance Thonvold, whose 95-mph fastball makes him a candidate, along with Matt Fiedler, a freshman from St. Paul Academy, to close.

But the Gophers had lots of pitching last year, too, and while it carried them to fourth in the Big Ten and a couple of wins in the conference tournament, they were undone by a season-long hitting drought. Conference champ (and 2014 favorite) Indiana scored nearly twice as many runs as Minnesota, but Anderson said Olinger, a first baseman who has undergone two shoulder surgeries, and shortstop Michael Handel, bothered last year by shoulder and groin injuries, can ignite an offensive resurgence. Throw in a strong freshman class and the Gophers hope to score enough runs to support their pitching.

“Our hitting is really coming around,” Olinger said. “I feel confident, with our pitching staff, that we’re set up to succeed.”

  • related content

  • Chart: U baseball will be road warriors

    Thursday February 13, 2014

    Road warriorsThe Metrodome is under demolition, meaning the Gophers baseball team won’t play a home game until the weather warms...

  • Season opener Friday vs. Northern Illinois at Glendale, Ariz.

    Season opener Friday vs. Northern Illinois at Glendale, Ariz.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 6:00 PM
Cleveland
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Washington
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
New York
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close