Coach hopes U can build on three-game setback

by Matthew Cross

For Gophers baseball coach John Anderson, getting swept in a three-game series at No. 10 Florida State last weekend never felt so good.
There were many pluses resulting from the way Minnesota played, which leads Anderson to believe the Gophers have the potential to be a good team later this spring.
Some of those positives are:
ù Minnesota had three pitchers (Justin Pederson, Ted Zrust and Tony Felling) who didn’t give up any runs. The hurlers had a combined 10 innings of work last weekend.
Ironically, Anderson is encouraged by the demise of pitchers Joe Westfall and Brad Kearin. He said the seniors were the only pitchers who got hammered badly last weekend, but the coach knows both of them will come around — probably this weekend.
ù Anderson said the Gophers gave up 10 of Florida State’s 40 runs last weekend with two strikes, two outs and nobody on base.
Minnesota hopes that with more experience playing outdoors and in game situations, the defense can end the inning without giving up extra runs.
ù Minnesota had five walks in the first two games compared to the Seminoles’ 13. Anderson said considering how much Florida State pitchers throw outside, that is a positive statistic for the Gophers.
ù Possibly the most inspiring outcome last weekend was getting five hits each from juniors Bryan Guse and Troy Stein, who have both seen little playing time in the past.
With those areas as positives for the team so far, Anderson predicted the Gophers will eventually be a better team than Florida State this spring.
“We have a chance come May-time to be a pretty good baseball team,” Anderson said. “If you break the games down, we got behind and fought back. The guys didn’t quit and they competed hard, and that’s a good sign.”
Anderson was pleased with his team’s composure and execution of the fundamentals against the Seminoles. This weekend at Arizona he would like to see better pitching from seniors Westfall and Kearin, and more consistency on defense and hitting.
One of Anderson’s main concerns is the lack of a leader. The team has yet to name a captain, and there hasn’t been a player to take the role. Another question is what type of personality will the squad have this spring?
Those answers are expected to come once the team experiences a couple of extra-inning games, which is typically when the true emotions of the players emerge.
“One of the challenges is we can lose players at this point in the season because players lose confidence,” Anderson said. “We just have to show some patience and balance that with some urgency to get better.”
In 1994, Minnesota lost its first seven games to start the season but came back to win 42 games that year and earn a berth in the Atlantic I Regional tournament.
However, the 1996 team doesn’t even compare to the 1994 squad, on which professional players Charlie Nelson, Mark Merila, Jim Brower, Shane Gunderson, Brian Mensink, Andy Hammerschmidt and Wes Denning starred.
By contrast, the Gophers currently have a catcher who has never caught full time in his life; a freshman third baseman who has never played third before; a junior center fielder who hasn’t played outfield since high school; a starting left fielder who has seen little playing time in the past; a freshman first baseman; and two junior college transfer players with no Division I experience.
Although Minnesota has a group of young players, Anderson thinks the current corps will continue to develop. He hopes they will be ready to compete hard when the team starts playing other squads on the Gophers’ level.
“We have a lot of guys who have a lot to prove yet,” he said.