Gophers baseball hurdles inexperience; Minnesota breaks the Top 25

The Gophers baseball team’s trip to West Lafayette, Ind., two weeks ago gave them plenty of excuses.

After a long bus ride, they rolled into their hotel in Indiana at 2:15 a.m., losing an hour entering the Eastern Time Zone. They were back out the door at 8 a.m. the next morning to eat breakfast, travel to the stadium and play a cold double-header against … Penn State.

They won 7-6 and 17-2 that Saturday, and came back to beat the Nittany Lions 8-2 on Sunday.

“That told me something about our team that weekend,” Gophers coach John Anderson said Tuesday. “They maybe could have felt sorry for themselves and packed it in.”

The Gophers (23-10, 7-1 Big Ten) have won seven straight games and on Monday cracked the D1baseball.com rankings for the first time this season at No. 25. They play Iowa (22-11, 6-4) in a three-game series that starts Friday at Target Field.

The prolonged winter weather forced the start of the series from Siebert Field, where the Gophers have yet to play a home game this season. Anderson said they’re grateful for 13 games played inside U.S. Bank Stadium. The players’ motto, Anderson said: “We will go wherever. Whatever it takes.”

“There is a strong group of seniors here that has invested a lot in the culture of this team and the leadership of this team,” the coach said. “They want to finish their careers out on a strong note. They have worked really hard to get us to this point now.”

Heading into their February opener in Georgia, the Gophers’ biggest question was pitching. Six upperclassmen on a team that finished third in the Big Ten a year ago were replaced by six freshman.

“We knew some of them had to contribute for us to have a chance,” Anderson said. “They have.”

Patrick Frederickson is 4-0 with a 1.96 earned-run average and team-high 38 strikeouts in seven starts, and closer Max Meyer has eight saves in 13 appearances, and 24 strikeouts in 20.2 innings pitched. Anderson also singled out Sam Thoresen, Ryan Duffey and Bubba Horton with playing big roles this season.

By Andy Greder

Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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