Gophers gear up for month-long homestand

Minnesota won’t travel again until the last week in March.

Samuel Gordon

The Gophers were tested by No. 2 University of California-Los Angeles in their first series of the season.

The Bruins boasted some of the best pitching and hitting the Gophers will see all year and took two of three from Minnesota in Los Angeles.

But the Gophers will play their next 17 nonconference games in Minneapolis, and head coach John Anderson said the home field will give his team a chance to build some confidence — especially the younger players.

“Sometimes when you focus on the environment you’re playing in and who you’re playing against, you don’t have a strong level of confidence,” he said.

“Now we’ve got to develop a different routine,” he said. “Back at home, sometimes that’s easier.”

Minnesota got a taste of that routine last season.

The Gophers played 27 straight games at home last year during the nonconference portion of their schedule.

Minnesota went 16-11 and won its final eight games during that stretch.

The Metrodome has been kind to Minnesota in recent years. The Gophers are 41-26 under the Teflon roof since 2010. They played their home games at Target Field in 2011 after the Metrodome’s roof collapsed in December 2010.

In April, the Gophers will shift their home games to the new Siebert Field.

Minnesota has practiced at the Metrodome for years, and its players are used to the stadium’s intricacies. Opponents are more likely to lose pop flies and fly balls in the lights and the roof.

The dome, which housed the Minnesota Twins for more than 25 years, is massive for a college ballpark.

The left field fence is 343 feet away from the plate, right field is 325 and center field is 408.

Teams struggle hitting home runs at the dome, including the Gophers. Last season, Minnesota hitters hit 11 home runs in 56 games. Gophers pitchers allowed only 20 home runs.

Anderson said sophomore pitchers Ben Meyer and Jordan Jess, who are new to the starting rotation, will benefit from playing at home.

“We want to take these guys to the next level in their development,” he said.

The Gophers will play without pitchers D.J. Snelten and Alec Crawford, who are injured.

Minnesota will open its homestand with a four-game set against Western Michigan.