Gophers hope extra bench player will spark bats at Iowa

Minnesota will add Matt Nohelty to the lineup this weekend and drop Kyle Carr.

Robert Mews

With limited offensive production this season, Minnesota’s baseball team is heading to Iowa this weekend with an altered roster and hopes of more offensive punch.

The team has decided to drop one pitcher off the active roster while adding some left-handed hitters.

And aside from the roster move, there are other signs that the Gophers (15-13, 3-5 Big Ten) offense could rebound this weekend for its four-game set against the Hawkeyes (14-14, 4-4 Big Ten).

“It’s a ballpark that historically has generated some offense,” coach John Anderson said of Duane Banks Baseball Field.

Since 2002 Minnesota has been able to average more runs at Iowa (5.5) than at home against Iowa (4.9).

Beyond that, Iowa also has taken over as claiming the Big Ten’s worst offense in terms of batting average (.251 – the Gophers now are at .252).

“They look similar to us in some ways,” Anderson said. “Their offense hasn’t been real strong, at least to date anyway.”

Part of the reason the squads’ offensive numbers are so similar is that they have faced similar opponents – Notre Dame, Louisiana-Lafayette, Illinois State and Nebraska.

However, the Gophers have been having trouble lately with what was supposed to be their offensive bright spot – hitters three and four in the lineup.

Those two spots typically have been reserved for junior Mike Mee and senior Andy Hunter.

“I think sometimes what happens on our team is if Mee or Hunter or somebody doesn’t get it done, I think we lose our edge a little bit,” Anderson said.

Through the month of April, Mee and Hunter are hitting .273 and .185, respectively.

Despite those struggles, a couple of players have been hitting better as of late.

Third baseman and sophomore Joe Maciej has been hitting .600 in Big Ten play.

“Early in the season I struggled,” he said. “I just kind of started my season over with Big Ten play and hopefully it continues.”

Outfielder Sean Kommerstad has been coming around at the plate as well.

“I’ve been feeling pretty good at the plate, but I’m not trying to get too high,” he said. “Hopefully (I’ll) just do what I’ve been doing and get my pitches and put them in play.”

And even though a few hitters have picked up their offensive production as of late, Anderson is still searching for a lineup that will work.

Particularly, he said, he will add Matt Nohelty to the lineup this weekend to add more left-handed hitters while dropping pitcher Kyle Carr.

“We just decided that we need some more options on offense,” Anderson said. “I got to have more options than last week when we didn’t have any left-handed hitters off the bench.”

He also added that Nohelty likely will lead off for Minnesota. The Gophers are 8-1 when he does.

“I think that’s where his place is going to be in this program,” Anderson said. “We got to teach him how to be a leadoff hitter.”