Transfer pays off for Gophers baseball team

Sarah Mitchell

After one season as a part of Oklahoma’s baseball team, the Sooners coaching staff saw little potential in Aron Amundson. But Minnesota’s coaching staff took stock in the overlooked Amundson and in his first and only active season as a Gopher, the senior is thriving.
Amundson, who sat out last season after transferring from Oklahoma, was named co-Big Ten Player of the Week, sharing the honor with Illinois senior Todd McClure.
“It’s pretty cool,” Amundson said. “I guess I’ve never really gotten anything like it.”
As Minnesota finished with a spotless 5-0 week, the Mandan, N.D., native batted .600. In 15 trips to the plate, Amundson tripled, homered and double four times while driving in 10 runs. Amundson posts a team-leading .472 batting average.
“I’m happy for him. He has worked so hard,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “He had to go through so much adversity and I think he feels an urgency because this is his last season.”
Quinlan breaks record
Protecting senior Robb Quinlan in the batting order was one of Anderson’s concerns this season. But with the Big Ten opener approaching this weekend, Quinlan seems to be fending for himself.
The first baseman is second on the team with a .427 batting average and recently set a school record for career hits.
A first inning RBI single to left center during the Gophers 16-9 defeat of Oregon State placed Quinlan at the top of Minnesota’s all-time hits list. Ryan Lefebvre (1990-93), who’s now a radio announcer for the Kansas City Royals, was the former title holder with 271.
Quinlan rocked the Beavers pitching staff for four more hits over the weekend, bringing his total to 276.
Birk on the shelf
For the second consecutive season, Gophers ace Ben Birk won’t pitch in the team’s Big Ten opener. Last season a shoulder injury benched the lanky left-hander for three conference series. This year a sore ulnar nerve could force the Big Ten’s preseason Pitcher of the Year off the mound for the rest of the season.
“I think we need to get used to the fact that Ben may not pitch this year,” Anderson said. “As we get further along in the season, the harder it will be for him to get into shape.”
The hurler’s absence changes the dynamics of Minnesota’s pitching staff. Birk posted an 8-2 record last season and a 2.65 ERA. In Big Ten action, the junior went 4-0 and allowed just one run, a solo homer by Michigan State’s Mike Wagner.
“Everybody moves up a spot and that could create problems in how we go after teams,” Anderson said.
Around the Big Ten
While the Gophers (17-6) wrapped up their final non-conference series over the weekend with a three-game sweep of Oregon State, four Big Ten teams began league action.
Illinois is the early Big Ten leader behind a four-game sweep of Michigan State. Michigan took three of four from Iowa.