The Gophers baseball team will open its 130th season — and 36th under coach John Anderson — when it plays Georgia Tech at 3 p.m. Friday in the Atlanta Challenge.
Minnesota was picked to finish third in the Big Ten in a preseason coaches' poll released Wednesday, behind Indiana and Nebraska.
The Gophers were 36-21 overall and 15-8 in the Big Ten last season.
The website College Baseball Daily named first baseman Toby Hanson (.319, five HRs, 57 RBI last season) and third baseman Micah Coffey (.340, four HRs, 46 RBI) to its preseason All-Big Ten team.
The strength of a young Minnesota team will be its infield with Hanson, Coffey and second baseman Luke Pettersen (.354, 30 RBI). All three are seniors.
Also back is junior catcher Cole McDevitt (.296, 22 RBI), a first team All-Big Ten pick last season, and Jordan Kozicky (.325, 4 HRs, 28 RBI), a versatile utility player, who made the Big Ten all-freshman team.
"You're going to see a lot of the core group of juniors and seniors," Anderson said. "They're talented and experienced, and that should turn out well for us."
Anderson's roster is made up of six seniors, nine juniors, five sophomores and 13 freshmen. The biggest question about the Gophers is their pitching. Of the team's 16 pitchers, eight are freshman.
"We've got seven true freshmen (and one redshirt freshman)," said pitching coach Ty McDevitt, Cole's older brother. "We need them as a group to step up."
The key returning veterans on the mound are starter Reggie Meyer (5-1, 3.18), a 6-4, 210-pound junior, and senior relievers Fred Manke (2-1, 3.60) and Jackson Rose (0-0, 3.78).
Meyer appeared in 19 games and started seven. Manke and Rose combined for 31⅔ innings in 26 appearances.
Among other players expected to make big contributions:
• Outfielder Alex Boxwell, the sixth senior (.253, 6 HRs, 14 RBI).
• Catcher Eli Wilson, sophomore (.319, 11 RBI).
• Outfielder Ben Mezzenga, junior (.296, 9 RBI).
• Shortstop Terrin Vavra, junior (.308, 19 RBI), named preseason All-Big Ten by the website 10 Innings.
• Pitcher Nick Lackney, junior (2-1, 5.85), who had 28 Ks in 32.1 innings .
• Pitcher Max Meyer, picked by Perfect Game as the Big Ten freshman of the year. He was a three-year starter at Woodbury High School.
Starting Friday, the Gophers will play 23 games in 30 days. In that span, they will play North Dakota at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 at U.S. Bank Stadium — the first of 13 games there this season. Their real home opener, at Siebert Field, will be against Penn State at 4 p.m. on April 6 — the first of 15 games there.
About the team
The Gophers have players from eight states: 20 from Minnesota, 16 metro, four outstate; three from both Illinois and Wisconsin; two from both Nebraska and Washington; and one apiece from Michigan, Oklahoma and South Dakota.