Inexperience lends mystery to new faces

Players who don’t have scouting reports on them are benefiting this year.

Robert Mews

When this season began for Minnesota’s baseball team one thing was almost a given – Andy Hunter, a third team All-Big Ten selection from last season, would help lift the team to contention this season.

However, through much of Big Ten play, Hunter has struggled, while younger players like freshman Chris Herbert, Matt Nohelty and Nate Hanson have, at times, produced better numbers.

But it sometimes goes beyond simple numbers.

Hunter, like many upperclassmen throughout the Big Ten, have scouting reports on them that are compiled from their first at-bat in conference play. This means pitchers know the inside and outside of each player, such as Hunter.

“If somebody finds out where your holes are as a hitter, then they can get you out,” coach John Anderson said. “(Players) got to adjust and improve and try to do something about it.”

Anderson said Hunter might be feeling the effects of opposing pitchers’ scouting reports – his numbers are at the lowest point in his career.

Yet, inexperienced freshmen are starting to contribute more on offense.

Hanson, a third baseman, was hitting .354 until he injured his wrist. Herbert, the Gophers fourth catcher, has started to hit more consistently, and Nohelty, an outfielder with quick feet, has almost assured himself as the main leadoff man for the remainder of the season.

“I think those guys are going to keep getting better and better as they get more experience,” Anderson said.

Anderson suggested last week that Nohelty would become the Gophers leadoff hitter because he brings good speed to the lineup while being able to hit consistently.

“Nohelty’s really fast,” Herbert said. “A lot of the opponents really don’t know that. So we really can use our strengths.”

Perhaps the opponents don’t know, because they don’t have a detailed scouting report on him. But Herbert said the younger players will use that to their advantage.

“I mean, (pitchers) really don’t know what to throw against us,” he said. “We kind of play it to our strengths really.”

Anderson also said it allows a younger player, such as Herbert, to be more aggressive at the plate.

“Chris is hitting ninth and he’s an unknown commodity,” Anderson said. “So they’re going to throw it in there for him and we just need him to be aggressive and pick out a good one to put a swing on it.”

Nohelty said he credits his offensive surge more to the upperclassmen.

“They showed us a lot,” he said. “I think, as the season goes along, all the younger guys are starting to get a little more comfortable.”

Perhaps that’s because the older players know that offensive numbers can drop off after a freshman year.

Hunter hit .344 his freshman season, .366 his sophomore season, .324 last season and now .309 this season. The same struggle can be seen with players such as senior Luke MacLean and junior Mike Mee.

“That’s the process the players go through in this game,” Anderson said. “And the ones who end up being the great ones Ö they make those adjustments.”