Big Ten season opens in Michigan

Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s baseball team ended last year’s Big Ten season on a sour note, dropping two games and the conference tournament title to Ohio State on the final day of competition.

But the closing moments weren’t disappointing enough to take much away from last season. And the team heads into this Big Ten season expecting nothing less than its third-straight regular season title before avenging its tournament slip-up.

“I do think it’s left a sour taste in our mouths,” coach John Anderson said. “And I think they’d like to get back in that position again.”

That process begins today at 2 p.m. in Ann Arbor, Mich., as Minnesota (10-8) and Michigan (9-9) kick off a four-game series, which also includes two games Saturday and one Sunday, starting at noon both days.

While Minnesota starts its next conference campaign with a younger lineup still coming together, the Wolverines begin with almost a completely different lineup than last year.

Anderson said Michigan will need to focus on scoring some runs and trying to compete, while his team has already taken the necessary steps to prepare for another dominant Big Ten season.

A year after finishing 24-6 – five games better than the second-place Buckeyes – the Gophers have traveled a tough road on the way to Ann Arbor.

“Other teams play weak nonconference schedules,” senior center fielder Sam Steidl said. “We pride ourselves on playing the tough teams when we can.”

The Gophers have faced off with several tournament-caliber teams, including Miami (Fla.), Florida State, Nebraska, Cal State-Fullerton and Notre Dame.

So now that the nonconference preparation is through, Minnesota can get down to business and lay it down on the field.

And the team is excited.

“I think there’s a lot more energy,” sophomore second baseman Luke MacLean said. “It’s not like we don’t want to win nonconference games, but the intensity level turns up.”