Gophers looking to start spring on high note

Minnesota begins play on Friday as the Gophers head to Georgia for a four-game road trip.

Toby Hanson throws the ball back to pitcher Brett Schulze during the Gopher's game against Illinois on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at Siebert Field.

Courtney Deutz, Daily File Photo

Toby Hanson throws the ball back to pitcher Brett Schulze during the Gopher’s game against Illinois on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at Siebert Field.

Jack Warrick

The Gophers are looking to turn the page on last season, after the team lost in the Big Ten tournament semifinals and didn’t make the NCAA tournament at the end of the year.

Minnesota will begin its 130th season Friday at Georgia Tech, which will start a four-game road stretch in the stats. The Gophers will play Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State twice and then Georgia State to finish the series off on Sunday.

Head coach John Anderson said one of the biggest challenges ahead for the baseball team is figuring out the pitching staff, with six pitchers either graduated or drafted from last year’s team.

“We’re going to need a lot of people to step up for us when you lose six pitchers like we did,” Anderson said. “I’m confident that the players that are returning are making the next step in their development.”

The top three arms from last year left, including closer Brian Glowicki who had a 2.20 ERA and tied the program record for saves with 16. The Gophers signed eight freshmen arms to make up for that hole in pitching this year.

“They’re all going to pitch, and we’re going to get them out there and start to build our staff,” Anderson said. “I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge here the first 15-20 games is figuring out our pitching staff, getting some experience in the freshmen guys, and then trying to put the pieces together and decide how we’re going to build the starting rotation.”

The most experienced pitcher of the group is sophomore Brett Schulze who threw just over 70 innings last year.

Outfielder Drew Hmielewski, who played both football and baseball for Minnesota previously, announced last month he would stop football and focus solely on baseball.

The former Gophers wide receiver and punt returner said he wanted to put more time into baseball and make sure he completes his goals.

“I have a passion for both football and baseball,” Hmielewski said. “I did a lot of praying about it, I talked to my family, and I realized that my passion for baseball is greater, and I have a dream and a goal in baseball and I want to follow that dream and pursue that.”

The Gophers went 36-21 overall last year, and 15-8 in the Big Ten. Two players, both pitchers, were taken in the MLB Draft in the summer.