Another tough test awaits as Gophers host Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome

by Nick Gerhardt

As if college exams weren’t enough for the Minnesota baseball team, its schedule has become a test every weekend.

Last weekend the Gophers (0-3 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) faced No. 4 Mississippi and this weekend they will face the likes of No. 25 Tulane and 2007 NCAA regional participants Pepperdine (3-1 overall, 0-0 West Coast) and Texas Christian University in the Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome on Friday through Sunday.

This year marks the 24th year Minnesota will host the tournament and scheduling top national programs is nothing new for the Gophers.

“We’ve tried to use the tournament to bring in people from all across the country to showcase college baseball,” head coach John Anderson said. “I think we try to treat people first-class when they come so I think the thing has had a great history of attracting outstanding teams.”

Since its inception in 1985, there have been only three years the tournament did not feature a top 25 team.

The Gophers renew a series that dates to 1930 when they face the Green Wave Saturday. Minnesota holds an 8-3 lead in the all-time series. Their last contest came in 1996 when Tulane defeated Minnesota 11-8 in New Orleans.

The Gophers have plenty of work to do this weekend after getting outscored 45-10 last week and that work begins with the fundamentals.

“We’ve got to work on everything,” sophomore shortstop Derek McCallum said. “We’re going to have to be ready.”

“We just have to get back to the basics, doing all the little stuff,” junior third baseman Nate Hanson said. “If you can do that then you’re going to be in games.”

Minnesota faced arguably one of the best rotations in college baseball last weekend against the Rebels and will once again go against top pitching talent with the Waves’ right hander Brett Hunter, a preseason All-American.

Hunter and the rest of the staff have received plenty of run support as of late as Pepperdine has scored 42 runs in its last three contests.

The Horned Frogs return most of their starting lineup from a year ago and have first baseman Matt Vern pacing the offense thus far as he has six hits in 15 at-bats with six RBI.

TCU (2-2 overall, 0-0 Mountain West) lost all of its starters from last year and have found capable inning eaters early into this season. Steven Maxwell went seven innings, allowed two runs and struck out five in his first start of the season to provide the Horned Frogs a solid start for a seasoned team looking for its fifth straight NCAA regional appearance.

The Green Wave (4-0 overall, 0-0 USA) boasts a talented young squad with two first team Conference-USA pitchers in Shooter Hunter and Preston Claiborne. Tulane, however, has only three seniors on the roster.

The Gophers will certainly have their hands full with each opponent this weekend, something they are aware of and use to prepare for the conference schedule despite the recent results.

“Coach Anderson does this for a reason. It’s just to get us better and more prepared for conference play,” Hanson said. “I think he does that so we can get better.”