Minnesota trying to put last season behind them as they open up in Florida

Scott Byers

Steve Maturen

Scott Byers

Coming off a rough 2008 season, itâÄôs apparent that the Minnesota menâÄôs baseball team is eager to get back out onto the field. TheyâÄôll have the opportunity to do just that as they head to Florida for a weekend of games, taking on Seton Hall Friday, West Virginia on Saturday and capping off the weekend with a matchup against Florida State on Sunday. All games are part of the first ever Big Ten/Big East Challenge. The Gophers 20-35 record from their 2008 campaign was the worst in more than 60 yea rs for a historically competitive Minnesota baseball team. Head coach John Anderson said he has seen his team step back and make the choice to change things this year. âÄúAfter last season, our guys looked at themselves and the team and have made a conscious effort to improve both as individuals as well as collectively,âÄù he said. âÄúOur players have worked extremely hard to work to the standard that we have here.âÄù And that certainly goes for the three starters Anderson has lined up to take the mound this weekend. Senior Chancy Handran will start against Seton Hall Friday, followed by freshman right-hander Seth Rosin on Saturday and finally junior Tom Buske will try and cap things off on Sunday. But pitching coach Todd Oakes has instilled somewhat of a new mentality for his pitchers this season, and that is that everyone is a closer. Both Anderson and Oakes are stressing to their pitching staff that its job is to go out and work inning-to-inning. âÄúThe coaches have been telling us that there are no permanent roles on the team,âÄù Buske said. âÄúWeâÄôre not looking at each other as starters or relievers. WeâÄôre just going to go out and try and close out every inning.âÄù Going into the season, though, there are still some questions that have yet to be answered for the Gophers. Minnesota will start three redshirt freshmen in the infield, with the only upper-classman being junior second baseman Derek McCallum. McCallum, however, said he isnâÄôt nervous about having a young infield. âÄúWeâÄôve been intersquading plenty, McCallum said. âÄúThe only thing we havenâÄôt really seen is pitching from another team but weâÄôre hitting our guys well and I think we should be fine.âÄù Minnesota will also have to start the season without senior Matt Nohelty, who has anchored centerfield for the last three years. After off-season shoulder surgery, Nohelty will not open up the season in center. Instead, he will take over duties as designated hitter as he brings a 16-game hitting streak into the season. Nohelty has been working on his swing and Anderson said he looks as good as ever, but they didnâÄôt want to rush him back to throwing. âÄúHeâÄôll probably start a throwing program next week and weâÄôre hoping to have him back at the end of March,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúBut this will give guys some opportunities in the outfield. We could potentially be losing three outfielders after this season so weâÄôre hoping we might be able to get one or two more outfielders out of this.âÄù