Gophers prepare for early morning contest

by Paul Cordes

With its last six games canceled due to weather and snow, rain and cold forecasted for its midweek road trip to Northern Iowa, the Minnesota baseball team decided it was time to be proactive.

The Gophers were scheduled to travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take on the Panthers at 3:05 p.m. today but with Mother Nature picking on Minnesota, the Gophers will get up at the break of dawn and head inside the Metrodome with the first pitch coming at 8 a.m.

Though the drastic schedule change puts both teams in a less than favorable position, coach John Anderson said it came down to an absolute need to get in some games.

“Basically, we have to find a way to play, and we’re a little worried about losing some of what we’ve gained through March,” he said.

The creativity needed to find extra playing time has also fallen short of flattering.

Minnesota (17-6 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) had the opportunity to get on the field at the Dome at 7 a.m. on Monday and, despite pulling into Minneapolis from Michigan at 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, the Gophers showed up on a few hours rest for practice.

The Gophers were able to get in a scrimmage and senior right-hander Marcus McKenzie said though guys took the early practice a little hard, there hasn’t been any lack of drive.

“We thought they might bang the practice and say forget about it, but when we got up and got to the field, I think guys were ready to go,” McKenzie said. “I think once we got the scrimmage going, we just tried to get out of it what we could.

“I thought overall we did a great job, and obviously we would have rather played four games over the weekend, but we didn’t and this had to get done,” he said.

Pitchers especially were in need of a workout after the loss of 50 potential innings of work.

Coaches and pitchers alike have put their focus into keeping strong and being ready to go when they’re needed.

That leaves Anderson in the predicament of finding ways to give his pitchers the opportunity to see game-like pitching situations.

“We worked out twice inside at Michigan, we got to scrimmage on Monday and we’re trying to maintain some sharpness and to provide some opportunities for them to keep their arms working,” Anderson said. “Sometimes we have to be creative to come up with some ways in practice to simulate the types of things they’re going to see in a game.”

That creativity, though, can be put on hold for at least this morning as Minnesota will finally get a game in against the Panthers (12-16, 2-2 MVC).

Junior right-hander Dustin Brabender, who hasn’t seen game time on the mound in two and a half weeks, will get some much-needed innings and the start.

“The plan is to pitch a share of guys, hopefully six or seven,” Anderson said. “We’re stuck between trying to get them out there and having them ready for the weekend, so we’ll just try to run some others who need to get out there and pitch.”

Though the schedule changes, the snow and a game at first light could lead most to frustration, McKenzie said getting frustrated doesn’t do any good.

“I think everyone has their moments, but it doesn’t show when we’re on the field or at practice or in a hotel,” he said. “It’s more mentally draining than anything, but overall I think everyone is proud about how we’ve gone about this and dealt with it.”