Fiedler clicking on the mound, at plate

The sophomore is an outfielder, pitcher and DH for the Gophers.

Sophomore Matt Fiedler hits against Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 28 in Fort Myers, Fla.

Image by Eric Miller, Gopher Athletics

Sophomore Matt Fiedler hits against Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 28 in Fort Myers, Fla.

by Ben Gotz

Head coach John Anderson has a phrase he says about first-year players.

“Well, they say the best thing about freshmen is when they become sophomores,” he said.

Anderson used the phrase to describe sophomore designated hitter, outfielder and pitcher Matt Fiedler, but the player might already be showing his best game.

Fiedler leads the Gophers with a .396 batting average after 12 games. He’s third on the team in ERA at 2.25.

And last Saturday, he made a game-saving diving catch in right field. Fielder is wearing multiple hats for the Gophers, and each seems to fit well.

“[It’s] not every day you see a player like him, especially his great at-bats and the great pitching stuff that he has,” sophomore pitcher and infielder Tyler Hanson said. “Just having that guy every day in the lineup and possibly on the mound a couple times a weekend is really big for our program.”

When Fiedler was growing up, his hitting was ahead of pitching. It wasn’t until a velocity jump his junior year of high school that his talents at the mound began to catch up.

When colleges came calling, Fiedler faced a number of different options. Some schools wanted him as a pitcher, while others wanted him as hitter, and some wanted him as both.

Fiedler preferred the latter option.

“It was definitely a big selling point for me to be able to do both because I like both of them so much,” Fiedler said.

It’s a rare setup for Anderson to allow — Fiedler is one of only two players on the team listed as both a pitcher and a position player on the roster.

“It takes a special player, and he’s a special player,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often, and we’re fortunate to have somebody who can do that.”

The other is Hanson, who befriended Fiedler at about age 14 when the two were playing traveling baseball in Minnesota.

“I’ve faced him plenty of times growing up,” Hanson said. “It’s pretty cool to see him not hit the ball hard off me.”

Fiedler hit the ball as soon as he stepped to the plate. In his freshman season, he hit .304 in 46 plate appearances.

Pitching was more of an adjustment. Despite a 2-1 record, Fiedler had an 8.80 ERA.

“Last year was kind of an adjustment period for me, physically and mentally,” Fiedler said. “I had a little bit of success last year in a small sample, so I tried to develop and get bigger and stronger over the offseason so I’d have some confidence coming into this year.”

Fiedler seems to be brimming with confidence now. His bat is leading to hits and his arm — with its 93 mile per hour fastball — is leading to outs.

He’s showing more strength and power, too — at least to opposing pitchers on the mound.

“He’s a pretty intimidating guy,” Hanson said. “You don’t want to throw him a first pitch fastball or he’ll just jump on it right away.”