Midweek matchup with SDSU looked at as a tune up

Paul Cordes

Once again, the Minnesota baseball team is preparing for a crucial Big Ten series.

But before they get too far ahead of themselves, the Gophers will get a shot to extend their five-game winning streak tonight, this time against South Dakota State.

This is the second straight Wednesday the Jackrabbits will make the trip to Siebert Field to take on Minnesota in a midweek game. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.

A week ago the Gophers managed to come away with a 7-6 victory, but it didn’t come easy.

Things looked pretty secure for Minnesota (26-7 overall, 9-2 Big Ten) after a four-run first inning, but they soon learned South Dakota State (20-14) isn’t a team that is going to roll over. The Jackrabbits proved themselves a viable opponent with a comeback that fell just short.

Senior right-fielder Kyle Baran said the Jackrabbits are a quality team and the Gophers will need to show up ready to play.

“They showed last week that they’re a good team and can hang with anybody,” Baran said. “They swing the bat really well, but so do we, and it’s going to be a slug fest.”

But if Minnesota’s pitching staff has anything to say about it, they’d rather not have things turn into a slugfest, especially when there’s a South Dakota State hitter at the plate.

Coach John Anderson has used the midweek game in the past to get a lot of different pitchers innings on the mound, and tonight will be no different.

Freshman Allen Bechstein will get the start, and he said these games are good times for guys to get out on the bump.

“It’s really important to be able to get a lot of people in during these midweek games,” Bechstein said. “It helps for a lot of guys to get in and get a couple of innings of work, or even just a few pitches.”

Most of the pitchers who get work during the Wednesday game are usually worked in relief over the weekend.

With conference games being as important as they are, Anderson said he needs to be able to depend on the guys he brings in after his starters, and so far this year, he’s been happy with what he’s seen.

“We go to the bullpen at critical times,” Anderson said. “We bring those guys in a lot of times with guys on base or when we need to get an important out, so we try to use these opportunities during the week Ö to get them ready for the weekend.”

And this week is one of the biggest yet.

Minnesota will hit the road for the first time in three weeks when the travel to Champaign to face Illinois this weekend. The Gophers attempted to play at Michigan, Northern Iowa and South Dakota State since April 6, only to have games canceled or rescheduled due to weather.

Still, Anderson said, he doesn’t want his team to get ahead of themselves.

“We just have to stay focused about (today),” he said. “We have 50 percent of the Big Ten schedule (remaining), so we have to stay where we’ve been all year and come every day ready to play.”

Despite that, Baran said the Gophers are going to use this game tonight to get a little momentum before heading into Friday’s opener.

“We’ve tried to focus on the midweek games all season,” he said. “It’s good for everybody’s confidence if we can have a good performance as a team.”