Midweek game at North Dakota State will see depleted roster for Minnesota

Robert Mews

With another midweek game tonight, Minnesota’s baseball team once again will look to evaluate its younger players and look for some momentum heading into a critical stretch of the season.

The Gophers (22-20) head to Fargo, N.D., to play North Dakota State (6-32) at 6:30 tonight in what might be the last nonconference game of the season – as long if Minnesota doesn’t reschedule its game against St. Thomas. The Gophers won a game earlier against the Bison this season, 5-4 at the Metrodome.

But this midweek game has a different twist.

Minnesota is coming off a home series against Illinois in which it played poorly – three losses at home. And with the Big Ten conference leader in Northwestern on the docket this weekend, that means the team needs to get some momentum going, according to first baseman Andy Hunter.

“Obviously we had a really tough weekend and (we) just kind of want to get everything ticking together again,” he said. “It’s going to be important to just get it going.”

However, getting it rolling might be tough in this midweek game because half the team won’t make the trip.

“It’s a little bit more challenging this week,” coach John Anderson said. “We have a lot of kids that are finishing up, or they have projects or papers or finals being given. So we’re taking a skeleton crew with us to Fargo tomorrow.”

Anderson said shortstop Dan Lyons, catchers John Arlt

and Kevin Carlson, infielder Jeremy Chlan and outfielder Taylor VanderAarde will not make the trip.

He also said the team only will send five pitchers to the game, which leaves the bullpen in a tough position given the complexities of using multiple pitchers in a midweek game.

“We’re going to have to make due,” Anderson said.

Marcus McKenzie and Tom Buske will see some time on the mound tonight. Kyle Carr, Tyler Oakes and Reid Mahon are the other three pitchers making the trip.

Despite all the missing players, Hunter said the game is still important.

“We’re in a situation where we got to play well our last three weeks,” he said. “So we just got to focus real hard and get after it.”

But with the season winding down and with the place the team stands in the Big Ten, the Gophers might be a little excited to see tonight’s game be the last midweek game of the season.

“We’ve just been playing games and Ö we kind of just got to get back to the basics,” catcher Chris Herbert said.

Anderson said he is looking forward to the midweek games because the team can focus more on the conference race.

“It is kind of nice that you do slow down a little bit and just try and focus on your team and get ready for the next series,” he said. “It’s a critical juncture for us.”