Backup catcher vies for

by Sarah Mitchell

The Gophers pitching staff isn’t alone in causing the right kind of roster problems as the Big Ten baseball tournament approaches. Gophers Josh Holthaus has thrown another kink into Minnesota’s lineup possibilities.
Benefiting from some extra playing time during Minnesota’s home series against Michigan State over the weekend, the sophomore swung a big bat while fulfilling the team’s catching duties.
“Josh has been playing very well,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “It’s hard to keep him out of the lineup.”
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound player appeared in all four of Minnesota’s games over the weekend, starting three. Holthaus went 6-for-10 at the plate while driving in three runs, scoring three and living up to his role as the Gophers’ best offensive catcher.
“I started off real good last season and then I didn’t do anything at the end of the year. I think I ended up batting something like .333, but I know I could have done better,” Holthaus said. “I think the big thing this year is consistency.”
Third on the team with a .381 batting average, Holthaus proved himself from behind the plate as well. In the Gophers final home series of the season, Holthaus showcased his improving defensive abilities and strong arm.
Not surprisingly, experience has been key in Holthaus’ development. As a freshman, Holthaus played in 35 games, starting 22. This year, the catcher/infielder/designated hitter has already appeared in 42 games with 23 starts.
“This summer he went away and came back and we told him we were going to put him back there,” Anderson said. “Josh has gotten more experience behind the plate as the year has gone on and he’s become more effective back there in calling the game, blocking the ball and doing the things that we ask our catchers to do.”
In gaining the confidence of the Gophers coaching staff, Holthaus has also gained the respect of Minnesota’s bullpen. Holthaus was praised by starting pitcher Kelly Werner.
Werner earned his fifth victory of the season on Sunday. The junior hurler pitched five innings in the Gophers’ 8-6 win.
“I didn’t have to shake him off too much,” Werner said. “He’s got a good arm behind the plate. He’s pretty solid defensively. If you have a catcher who can hit and play defense, it’s a real plus.”
While Holthaus had a productive series against the Spartans, Anderson said Minnesota’s regular starting catcher Jeremy Negen “is still very valuable to the team,” especially with postseason play starting this week.
But because of his potential, Holthaus could work his way into the lineup somewhere.
“Josh has gotten a lot better,” Anderson said. “That’s why he played more.”