27-game homestand begins with Milwaukee, offers opportunity for routine

The Gophers will open a six-week homestand at the Metrodome.

Samuel Gordon

 

After a year of uncertainty, characterized by canceled games and peppered with distractions, the Gophers finally have a semi-permanent home to return to.

When the Metrodome’s roof collapsed in December 2010, it left head coach John Anderson scrambling to fill a season’s slate of games.

Now, Minnesota will get to play 27 straight games in the weather-neutral facility.

This weekend’s four-game set against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (0-3)  kicks off a stretch of the season that will feature only home games until April 6.

Some weather demons resurfaced last weekend as the Gophers (1-2) and several other teams participating in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge experienced weather delays and cancelations in Clearwater, Fla.

 “The nice thing about this weekend is the fact that I think we can predict a little bit better about when we’re going to play and when things are going to happen,” Anderson said.

“We can get into a routine, and that’s what I think we’re all looking forward to. It’s long overdue … Normalness would be good.”

The team’s projected closer, Billy Soule, who has been out with an undisclosed hand injury, said the Metrodome should give the team a boost.

“It’s just a good feeling knowing that every day, you’re going to have a game and no rain delays. Playing at home is a huge thing, being in the Central time zone,” Soule said.

“Even having a place to practice that you’re familiar with definitely gives you a lot of confidence.”

In 2011, Minnesota played a bundle of games at Target Field and a handful of games at run-down Siebert Field. The Gophers haven’t played a regular-season game in the Metrodome since 2010 but senior third baseman Kyle Geason said adjusting to games in the dome won’t be too difficult.

“[The adjustment] won’t be too bad. We’ve been practicing there for the past couple weeks before we went down to Florida,” he said. “Getting to play actual games will take a couple games just to get into the swing of things. As a team, we’re pretty prepared.”

The Gophers have shifted practice to the Gibson-Nagurski football complex as the Metrodome has hosted NCAA Division II and junior college baseball games in recent weeks.

Anderson said this week of practice has been dedicated to fine-tuning some nuances and setting up the pitching staff.

“We have a large number of games coming up the next two weekends … We’ve got a heavy schedule coming up here, and we’ve got to get our pitching staff lined up in order to pitch those innings,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of arms that need to work and get out there.”

Freshmen hurlers Ben Meyer, Lance Thonvold and Jordan Jess saw some action last weekend, and Anderson said there’s a chance they’ll get some work this weekend as well.

“We’re not afraid to throw the young guys out there in any situation. That’s how they get experience. That’s how they get better,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you’ve got to lose a game before you can win one.”