Once a Dome staple, DQ heads to AZ

With the Metrodome’s roof deflated, the Dairy Queen Classic, which Minnesota normally hosts, will be played in Tuscon.

Andrew Baker

After winning two-of-three games at the Wake Forest Tournament last weekend, the Gophers baseball team (3-3) will try to parlay that momentum to a strong showing at the Dairy Queen Classic tournament this weekend in Tucson, Ariz.

The Gophers will face South Alabama (5-3), Washington State (4-1) and Oklahoma State (6-2), who last year defeated the Gophers 16-9 in the same tournament at the Metrodome âÄî where it is normally held.

This year the tournament was moved, along with the rest of the GophersâÄô home games, due to the MetrodomeâÄôs damaged roof.

Although all three of MinnesotaâÄôs opponents have better records, the Gophers defeated then-No. 9 Connecticut on Feb. 19 and showed marked improvement between the two weekend tournaments now under their belt.

âÄúI think you gain confidence each time you play,âÄù Gophers head coach John Anderson said. âÄúI think for us right now, IâÄôm trying to learn about our team. IâÄôve played a lot of guys âĦ At the same time youâÄôre trying to get some reps for the guys you think are your front-line players.âÄù

The Gophers, who were picked to finish at the top of the Big Ten in a preseason coachesâÄô poll, are currently tied for fourth place in the conference standings with Indiana, Illinois and Penn State. Michigan State (5-1), Purdue (5-2) and Ohio State (4-3) occupy the top three spots.

The Gophers have been led by their veterans this year, although some newcomers have shown early flashes of talent, both offensively and on the mound.

In his collegiate debut against Louisville on Feb. 20, freshman lefthander Tom Windle gave up just two hits in three shutout innings of middle-inning relief in the 3-0 loss.

WindleâÄôs fellow freshman southpaw, D.J. Snelten, has allowed no runs in two relief appearances totaling 2 2/3 innings this year, while freshman third baseman Bobby Juan made his presence known Sunday with his first career home run in the GophersâÄô 7-1 victory over Delaware State.

âÄúThey really work hard all week to prepare for the weekend,âÄù junior starting pitcher Austin Lubinsky said of Windle and Snelten. âÄúI didnâÄôt expect them to come in and just dominate, but thatâÄôs what theyâÄôre doing now, and if they can keep that up, theyâÄôll have very successful years and careers.âÄù

Although some of the freshmen have made an impact, the more familiar names have been highlighting the box scores.

In the GophersâÄô 6-4 victory over Towson on Saturday, junior A.J. Petterson erupted for a career-high four hits in a 4-for-5 performance in which he scored a run and stole a base.

Junior first baseman Nick OâÄôShea was an All-Big Ten first team selection last year, and this year heâÄôs been showing why, hitting a team-high .478 with one home run, three doubles and seven RBIs.

The Wake Forest Tournament also served as a welcome-back party for junior outfielder Justin Gominsky, who missed most of last year with an injury and went 6-for-9 on the weekend.

âÄú[Gominsky] hasnâÄôt played in a year, so heâÄôs starting to get his timing down,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúHeâÄôs starting to see more pitching. HeâÄôs getting confident up there in the batterâÄôs box âĦ I told him, âÄòJust be patient. You havenâÄôt played for a long time. ItâÄôs going to take some time to get back in the groove here,âÄô and I thought he did a nice job.âÄù

The Dairy Queen Classic will be the third of five-straight road trips for the Gophers, who will not play a home game until April 1, when they begin conference play with a three-game series against Purdue at Target Field.