Baseball tightens up defense heading into mid-week game

by Anthony Maggio

Minnesota’s baseball team makes its final mid-week road trip of the regular season Wednesday to face Northern Iowa in Waterloo.

The Gophers (15-17, 7-4 Big Ten) lost to the Panthers (16-14) in their fourth home game of the regular season on March 6 by an 8-7 score.

Minnesota committed as many errors as they scored runs in the contest.

“When they played us in the Metrodome we had a terrible game,” second baseman Luke Appert said. “We played horrible defense. That was probably our worst defensive game of the year.”

Since then the Gophers have turned things around in the field. They committed only one error in three games last weekend versus Penn State.

“We knew (the defense) would come around,” senior Chris Guetzlaff said. “It was more mental lapses than physical errors. We knew it wouldn’t be a problem after awhile, so it’s no surprise that we’re doing a lot better now.”

The biggest obstacle for Minnesota in the last two weeks has been travel.

After playing a four-game series versus Michigan two weekends ago, the Gophers endured an eight-hour bus ride Tuesday for a game with Nebraska. Following the contest, Minnesota had another eight hour ride home, returning in time for breakfast Thursday, a few classes and a bus ride to the airport for a flight to Pittsburgh.

Upon arriving to Pittsburgh, the team was delayed because the airline misplaced a few bags belonging to players.

After the bags were found, the team got on yet another bus for the 135 mile trip through mountainous terrain to State College, Pa.

But during the trip, one of the wheels fell off the bus, delaying the team’s arrival until four in the morning Friday.

Still, the Gophers won 7-2 Friday evening despite facing Lions ace Mike Watson.

“They’re pretty resilient and they’re young,” coach John Anderson said. “I use (these situations) as opportunities to teach and see how far we’ve come – whether we can deal with distractions.

“I was impressed with the way we handled the distractions. I thought we played exceptionally well on Friday.”

After all the team went through the last two weeks, the four-hour drive to and from Waterloo should be a cakewalk. Still, the Gophers look forward to a couple of weeks at home following Wednesday’s game.

“(Midweek road games) keep you mentally fresh,” sophomore Gary Dick said. “But they drain you physically being on the road and the competition.”

The Gophers got a refresher on Monday, practicing outdoors for the first time this season. The spirits of those who attended the optional practice were high, as the sunshine and warm weather have been a long time coming.

The first time Minnesota faced Northern Iowa, the team only had nine games under its belt.

But with the defense coming around, the youthful pitching staff becoming more experienced each game and the offense supplying timely hitting, Anderson thinks this second game with Northern Iowa can be used as a measuring stick.

“This is the time of the year we’ll find out how much progress we’ve made and if we can maintain some consistency in our play,” Anderson said.


Anthony Maggio covers baseball and
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