Catcher Jake Elder wasn’t having his ideal senior season with Minnesota’s baseball team.
Glancing over box scores after each game and seeing a 1-for-4 by his name just wasn’t good enough. Going into this weekend’s series at home against Northwestern, Elder was hitting a mere .218.
But he “started from scratch” and helped Minnesota claim three of four games from the Wildcats with a 9-8 win Friday, a split in Saturday’s doubleheader with a 7-6 loss and a 3-2 win and a 15-7 win in the series finale Sunday.
Elder led the way, going 9-for-15 during the weekend with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored.
“I met with the coaches and had a nice little meeting about changing my attitude at the plate,” Elder said. “I think that was the biggest thing is that I stepped back and started from scratch.”
In the second game Saturday, Elder broke up a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning with a solo home run – his third of the season. The home run proved to be the game-winner.
“He decided he was going to draw a line in the sand and start over this weekend,” coach John Anderson said. “He did. He forgot about what his batting average was, made some adjustments on his approach, and those approaches have clearly helped.”
A change in the team’s approach was necessary this weekend, as it fell behind to Northwestern in all four games.
The Gophers were able to battle their way back in each game, including the 7-6 extra-inning loss Saturday. The Gophers trailed by three runs in the seventh but rallied to tie the game only to lose in the eighth.
Even that loss was encouraging for the Gophers.
“It’s good to see we’re persistent,” sophomore John Gaub said. “We’re hitting the ball and able to come from behind to win games now.”
Perhaps nobody has characterized persistence better than Elder.
Even with his struggles at the plate this season, Elder is second on the team with 24 RBIs.
But stats, good or bad, mean nothing to Anderson, he said.
“I’ve always said Jake does so much more for this team than ever shows up in stat sheets,” Anderson said.
Yet, Elder’s name does show up frequently in the stat and highlight reels every weekend.
While helping coach a young pitching staff – nine of the Gophers’ 16 pitchers on the roster are underclassmen – Elder has been able to throw out 25 percent of would-be base stealers.
Despite the early struggles, Anderson said he knew Elder’s final year at Minnesota was going to prove special.
And at the very least, this weekend was.
“It was a disappointing start for Jake,” Anderson said. “But he’s come around like we knew he would. He’s always been a leader.”