Gophers to evaluate talent

Minnesota will focus on self-improvement during its midweek game.

Paul Cordes

It’s not the most challenging game of the year, but the Minnesota baseball team is still looking to get a lot out of it.

The Gophers take on St. Thomas tonight at the Metrodome with the first pitch scheduled for 6:35.

The Bobcats (10-7 overall, 4-2 Florida Sun Conference) enter the game a definite underdog after Minnesota

won a pair of games against nationally ranked opponents last weekend, including a 10-5 win over then-No. 5 Arkansas on Sunday.

Coach John Anderson said he plans on inserting some players into the lineup who haven’t seen much, if any, action yet, and he’ll use the game as a chance to see where his team is.

“We’re going to get some pitchers in who didn’t get in last weekend and hopefully use this opportunity to evaluate our team,” he said.

“We are constantly evaluating our team and a lot of times the midweek games give us an opportunity to get a good look at where we are and help us put together our 25-man roster for league play.”

One of the new faces scheduled to make an appearance tonight is true freshman right-hander Allen Bechstein, who is expected to get the start on the mound for the Gophers (5-2, 0-0 Big Ten).

This will be Bechstein’s first appearance in a Gophers’ uniform, but the Apple Valley native went 5-2 with a 1.26 earned run average his senior season, and Anderson said he sees him as a possible starter at some point during his collegiate career.

In his first start, Bechstein said he wants to take advantage of the opportunity.

“This is a big opportunity for me, and I want to show people what I can do,” he said. “I see myself playing whatever role I can this year to help my team, whether it be middle relief or late relief, but this should help me get some experience and we’ll see what happens.”

Minnesota hitters will also get a chance to see some extra at-bats as they try to continue the momentum they acquired after scoring 10 runs against the Razorbacks last weekend.

One of the hottest sticks in the lineup, who will surely have an asterisk next to his name in St. Thomas’ scouting report, is senior left fielder Mike Mee.

Mee is hitting .500 with a .692 slugging percentage and has reached base multiple times in six of the Gophers’ seven games this season.

As a team, Minnesota has had a good amount of success at the plate against some of the best pitching in the country.

Four players are hitting over .350 and Mee said confidence at the plate is a big plus for any team.

“I think we’ve been consistent up at the plate, which is bringing a lot of confidence for our hitters,” he said. “When you’ve got confidence up there, you are a lot more relaxed. And relaxation is so important when you’re up there. You can clear your head and just focus on hitting the ball.”

And with the Bobcats pitching staff giving up six earned runs per game so far this year, the Gophers could put up some big numbers.

But Anderson says he’s just going to be looking at his players and trying to build a team that can be successful once conference play begins at the end of the month.

“If a player can go up to the plate and be successful once, and then do it again, and then go on a streak, they’re going to build some confidence when they’re in a key situation. They’ll be able to say ‘I’ve been here, I’ve done this.’ ” he said.

“In practice and in these games, we’re always looking to build that confidence.”