Coming off four straight games in which the Minnesota baseball team has scored double-digit runs, the Gophers are opening up a crucial Big Ten series tonight against Northwestern at Siebert Field.
Minnesota is hosting the conference’s worst team this weekend with game one today at 6:35 p.m. followed by a doubleheader Saturday with first pitch at 2:05 p.m. and the Sunday conclusion with a 1:05 p.m. scheduled start.
The Wildcats (11-30 overall, 3-17 Big Ten) have struggled all season long in every aspect of the game as their 7.20 earned run average and .943 fielding percentage make them the worst pitching and defensive team in the league.
With Michigan continuing to dominate at the top of the conference, these four games, especially since they’re at home, are almost must-wins if there is any hope of hosting the Big Ten tournament at the end of the month.
Coach John Anderson said being able to play at home gets rid of the distractions of traveling and hotels, and allows his players to focus on getting some wins.
“We’ve got two of our last three Big Ten series at home, obviously we want to win at home,” Anderson said. “We’ve handled playing here well all year and we can’t forget the most important part of being at home and that’s getting the last at bat.”
“We’ve done a lot of things in the last inning of some games here, it’s important,” he said.
But Minnesota (31-8, 12-3) would prefer not having to win games in the bottom of the ninth, particularly with Northwestern bringing in a pitching staff that has been essentially throwing batting practice to opponents.
In their 41 games, the Wildcats have given up 336 runs, an average of over eight runs per game.
And for the Gophers, who continue to the pound the ball, that is welcome news.
Senior shortstop Dan Lyons, who is hitting .643 with two home runs in his last four games, said Minnesota needs to keep the hot bats alive.
“We really need to keep doing what we’re doing right now,” he said. “We certainly can’t go out there and take any team lightly, and we won’t do that this weekend.”
’77 College World Series team to be honored
The Minnesota baseball program will honor the 30th anniversary of the last Gophers team to make the trip to Omaha in between games on Saturday.
The ’77 Gophers, led by now-Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and Tom Mee, father of current Minnesota left fielder Mike Mee, amassed 39-12 record as they trounced through the Mideast regional with a pair of wins over Florida and one over Central Michigan.
The team, coached by the newest College Baseball Hall of Famer Dick Siebert, who was a class of 2007 inductee, dropped its opener 4-7 before beating Baylor in an elimination game. However, the team then fell to Arizona State 8-4 to end its championship run.
Anderson was a student manager on that team as well and said the ’77 team was a special one and being able to honor their accomplishments on Saturday is important.
“Back then, I was just kind of getting my feet wet and getting involved with the program and here we are 30 years later, it kind of makes me feel old to be honest with you,” Anderson joked.
“That was a significant moment for this program, and I think being able to honor that achievement this weekend will be a great opportunity for our kids to be able to connect with the past.”