Dairy Queen Classic begins process of getting lineup set

by Matt Perkins

Imagine toying with one of the many Fisher-Price learning devices on the market.

That’s what Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson is playing around with early this season. Only he’s tinkering around with his toy of choice, the Gophers’ lineup card.

The Gophers have several position battles taking place this year, and center field, left field and the pitching rotation questions are being answered with every game.

This weekend’s 21st annual Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome is no exception.

“We can’t be too critical of these first games of the year,” Anderson said. “But we need to learn things about ourselves.”

Out in left field, sophomore Mike Mee looks to make the transition from first base and designated hitter to the outfield for the Gophers.

Last year, Mee became the first Gophers player to drive in more than 50 runs in his freshman season.

The graduation of center fielder Sam Steidl opened up a spot in the outfield, with the rest of the lineup’s starters returning.

Senior third baseman David Hrncirik said the team will be comfortable with whatever lineup Anderson decides to go with.

“Luckily, our team is very flexible,” Hrncirik said. “Everyone is willing and able to do whatever it takes to make the team better.”

With Mee in left, it leaves three leading candidates – Tony Leseman, Sean Kommerstad and Aaron Larson – to scuffle for the remaining two outfield positions.

Larson, a redshirt freshman, will have an uphill battle to out-field and out-hit Kommerstad, who started for the Gophers in right field as a true freshman last season, and Leseman, who as a junior was the top nominee to replace Steidl in center to start the season.

All three outfielders struggled in this past weekend’s trip to Arkansas. Leseman went 1-for-8 with a pair of RBIs, Kommerstad went 1-for-7 and Larson started only one game, going 0-for-3.

The struggles continue with the pitching staff, which gave up 21 runs in three games against the Razorbacks.

Senior Matt Loberg will start today against New Orleans, senior Josh Krogman will start Saturday against No. 5 South Carolina and sophomore Josh Oslin will start Sunday against Pepperdine.

Krogman said this is a year of uncertainty in the rotation.

“This is going to be the first year we don’t have a true number one,” Krogman said. “We are looking for someone to fill in those roles.”

But Krogman said it’s the heat of competition that will pull the Gophers’ offensive and pitching lineups together.

“We have one thing going for us,” he said. “Every person out there wants to be the guy to make it happen.”