Lyons fills the hole at short

Shortstop Dan Lyons has gotten on base in all 15 of Minnesota's games.

Robert Mews

Coming into the season, Minnesota’s baseball team had some big question marks as to who would fill the shoes of third baseman David Hrncirik and shortstop Matt Fornasiere.

After all, Fornasiere led the Gophers last year in batting average (.335), runs (47), hits (77), doubles (18) and triples (2).

Despite those numbers and his .925 fielding percentage, Minnesota possibly has been able to forget Fornasiere through its first 15 games this season with the addition of Dan Lyons.

Lyons has gotten a hit in 13 of 15 games this season and gotten on base in all 15. He now has the Gophers’ second-highest on-base percentage, at .460.

“They put a lot of trust in me to get my job done,” Lyons said.

Lyons has been able to do just that. If he continues his pace, he’ll end up with about the same number of runs and RBIs that Fornasiere had last season. He’ll just about double the number of bases-on-balls, which will almost assure him a higher batting average than Fornasiere had last season.

Furthermore, Lyons said he’s been able to adjust to hitting in the Division I level mostly because pitchers at this level throw with more command than at the junior college level, where Lyons played last season.

“I know where the ball is going to be a lot more,” Lyons said of the location of pitches within the strike zone. “Coming from junior college you get pitches that you don’t expect a lot.”

Despite his lack of Division I experience, coach John Anderson said he felt early on that Lyons would be able to fill the role of the departing senior.

“He’s been a pleasant addition to our team,” Anderson said. “He’s exceeded my expectations early in this first part with his defensive play and his overall play altogether.”

Lyons brings more experience than you’d typically expect from a first-year player.

The Rochester native was a first-team Junior College All-American at Iowa Central Community College last year and won a Golden Glove Award when he played for the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods League.

“He’s played a lot of baseball,” Anderson said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s been able to play at a fairly high level here right out of the gate.”

Lyons said his previous baseball experience has been a factor in his early season success.

“I owe a lot of that to playing summer ball in the Northwoods League,” Lyons said. “There’s a lot of good Division I competition in that league, and playing in that for two years really helped me out to get where I am now.”

And he’s been able to fit in nicely with teammates.

“He’s a great player,” second baseman Luke MacLean said. “He’s making most of the plays. He’s putting the ball in play. He’s stealing bases. He’s got some power. He can do it all.”

Yet MacLean did admit that Lyons is a bit of a different shortstop than Fornasiere was.

“Fornasiere had a little bit stronger arm, a little bit bigger kid,” MacLean said. “(Lyons) gets rid of the ball real quick. There (are) not a lot of adjustments that I (had) to make when he came in here.”