Gophers glad to be home; Siebert Field in ‘great shape’

Aaron Blake

Despite all the talk about the crumbling walls and the need for a new facility for his team, Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson said there is no place he would rather be this afternoon.

“Considering where we’ve been and how long we’ve been gone – no,” he said.

Today’s contest against Division II South Dakota State, slated for 3 p.m., will mark the Gophers’ first home game since their March 7 Dairy Queen Classic finale versus Florida State at the Metrodome.

The 19-game road trip that ensued will make today’s game all the sweeter, despite the fact that it does not count toward the team’s overall record come NCAA Tournament time.

“This is our home, and when people come in, they’re going to have a tough time beating us here,” starting pitcher Craig Molldrem said.

And he’s not kidding.

Last season, Minnesota was 19-4 at Siebert Field, including 15-1 versus Big Ten competition. Over the last eight seasons, Gophers teams are 158-49 within Siebert Field’s confines.

Besides returning to play in front of the home crowd, the Gophers (15-12, 5-3 Big Ten) said they are looking forward to what they see as one of the best playing surfaces in the Big Ten.

“The field is in great shape,” senior infielder Jared Sanders said. “The infield has been covered all winter, so it’s in great shape. Hopefully, we can have a good first homestand.”

After the Gophers play host to the Jackrabbits (7-24) today, Penn State will come to town for a four-game slate Friday-Sunday.

But first things first.

South Dakota State comes to town struggling to put things together without 20-year coach Mark Ekeland, who is taking a leave of absence for health reasons. They are now led by interim coach Jack Reynolds.

“There’s been a transition and a little disarray,” Anderson said. “I think it’s been a difficult year for them.”

With a weaker Division II foe, Anderson said the Gophers will focus on themselves.

Minnesota’s pitching came around last weekend, allowing just seven runs in three games to Indiana on Friday and Saturday before the Hoosiers put together nine runs in just two innings on Sunday.

Anderson said he hopes to work six pitchers into the game, including Luke Beresford, Cole DeVries, John Gaub, Jeff Moen, Andy Peters and Tim Theis.

In addition, Anderson said he likes the lineup he used against Indiana, plugging second baseman Luke MacLean into the second spot and shortstop Matt Fornasiere at No. 3 while moving first baseman Mike Mee to cleanup.

The Gophers have lost both of their midweek games this season, including a 5-4 decision to Minnesota State-Mankato on March 3 at the Metrodome and a 7-6 10-inning loss at Northern Iowa on April 7.

The injury report

Catcher Jake Elder is doing better after taking a foul tip to the midsection last Friday against Indiana. Anderson said he would like to get Elder an at-bat today.

Anderson also said freshman reliever Josh Oslin will not play until at least next week. Oslin did not make last weekend’s trip because of a tender shoulder.

“He’s a young player, and he’s talented,” Anderson said. “We’re not going to take any chances. We’re very cautious – it’s our nature.”