Gophers look to wake bats vs. Wolverines

Robert Mews

Offensive woes have led Minnesota’s baseball coach John Anderson to emphasize aggressiveness for this weekend’s home series tilt against Michigan.

The Gophers (13-10, 2-2 Big Ten) begin the four-game set against the Wolverines (13-10, 1-3 Big Ten) at 6:30 tonight. A doubleheader will start at 2 p.m. tomorrow, with the series wrapping up with a 1 p.m. game Sunday.

Offensively, Minnesota has struggled this season.

Anderson said he hopes this weekend brings a chance to change that.

“We need to pitch well, play defense like we have and try to get to five runs on offense, someway, somehow,” he said.

But Anderson credits some of the offensive problems to the team’s lack of aggressiveness during at-bats.

“We take too many pitches early in the count and we don’t put the ball in play,” he said. “It’s really hard to make something happen.”

Shortstop Dan Lyons has been one of those players who has struggled – only three hits in his past seven games – after beginning the season on a hitting streak.

“I think we’re a little bit disappointed with the way we’ve been hitting,” Lyons said. “Up and down the lineup, it’s not as good as we’ve hoped.”

The Gophers team batting average is .246, which is the worst in the Big Ten.

That has caused Anderson to change lineups multiple times during the season, in what he said is the most changes he’s made during his 25 years as coach.

This weekend might not be any different.

It’s possible the Gophers still will use different lineups this weekend in search of offensive production and to match up against the Wolverines pitchers.

Michigan has new faces in the bullpen after losing three of their key starters through last season’s Major League draft.

Their team earned run average is 5.30 this season – good for seventh in the Big Ten.

On the other side, Minnesota’s pitchers have performed well this season.

The team’s ERA entering this weekend is 3.87, which is second in the Big Ten.

Brian Bull (2-3, 2.41 ERA) will start tonight.

His ERA indicates that he’s pitched well, but his record might indicate otherwise.

“I wouldn’t mind getting a little run support,” Bull said. “But if I don’t get any I just got to bear down and try and do my job.”

Anderson said Dustin Brabender (2-4, 4.99 ERA) likely will get the nod in Saturday’s first game, but he wasn’t sure who will start the second one.

Cole DeVries (3-1, 2.35 ERA) will go to the mound in Sunday’s game.

However, while Anderson said the team pitching and defense have played well, he said the key will be getting to five runs in each game this weekend.

“We got to get more consistent on offense,” he said. “We’re not going to get too far unless we get better on offense.”