Gophers start season 2-2 in Georgia

The Gophers played four games in three days in the first weekend series of the year in Georgia.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Kozicky watches the pitch during a game against North Dakota State University at Siebert Field on Tuesday, Apr. 4, 2017.

Image by Chris Dang, Daily File Photo

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Kozicky watches the pitch during a game against North Dakota State University at Siebert Field on Tuesday, Apr. 4, 2017.

by Jack Warrick

The Gophers went down to Georgia for the start of the season and came back to Minneapolis with a .500 record.

Minnesota beat Kennesaw State twice on Saturday and lost to Georgia Tech and Georgia State on the road trip.

“Kids competed and battled, and played with some grit and some passion,” head coach John Anderson said. “I’ve got no issues with what’s going on here.”

Minnesota rallied Saturday after a close loss against Georgia Tech to sweep Kennesaw State (1-3) in a Saturday double-header.

First baseman Toby Hanson led the Gophers’ 12-hit game with three hits of his own to make it 9-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. But the first Gophers’ freshman to play in 2018, Joshua Culliver, stepped up to the mound and let up three runs to end with a first game score of 9-3.

The second game of the double-header started with a grand slam for the Owls in the second inning, putting a damper on Gophers’ pitcher Jake Stevenson’s first start of the season. But the Gophers, led with RBIs from Micah Coffey, Terrin Vavra and Cole McDevitt in the third, fought back with six runs of their own to give Minnesota the 6-5 lead.

The Owls retook the lead briefly in the bottom of the third, but the Gophers closed the game out with five unanswered runs to win 11-8.

The Gophers finished the double-header with 20 runs in the two games.

“We have a lot of juniors and seniors that have a lot of college at bats, that have some talent and skill,” Anderson said. “I expect us to have a strong offense and I expect us to be very good on defense, and that’s going to have to carry us here the first 10 or 15 games ’til we get our pitching staff squared away.”

The Gophers started out their season by dropping a close game to Georgia Tech (1-2) on Friday. Gophers infielder Jordan Kozicky provided all of the runs for the Gophers with two solo home run blasts in the first and third inning. Kozicky, who had his birthday that day, hit the homers on his first two at bats of the season. 

“I guess I was just excited and batting practice went well. I was hitting the ball really well in practice, and then I just got fast balls which I’m usually pretty aggressive on,” Kozicky said. “And I just put good swings on those two home run swings.”

However, the 2-1 lead that Kozicky’s second homer provided for the Gophers would get tied by the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech’s Tristin English RBI single to left field in the third tied it up. Then, Georgia Tech took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with a sacrifice fly to center field.

In the road trip’s final game, at Georgia State (2-1) in Decatur, Georgia, the Gophers gave the start on the mound to freshman Sam Thoresen. In his first college game, the pitcher beaned four batters and allowed five runs before getting pulled for freshman Patrick Fredrickson.

“Not everything went his way, in fact a lot of things didn’t at all,” senior pitcher Jackson Rose said. “It’s a learning experience every time you fail, and you shouldn’t look at it as a bad thing.”

Anderson said he’s seen young pitchers struggle with the adjustment to the college game, and he’s not worried about Thoresen.

“I’ve seen that many times,” Anderson said. “And I’ve seen players go through that, and recover, and get back on the right path here, and become outstanding players.”

The Gophers bats could not dig the Gophers out of the hole Thoresen’s pitching had created, and the Gophers lost 9-6 to end the weekend with a 2-2 record.

“We played four games. We got information,” Anderson said. “Everybody’s going to have some things that they need to go work on to get better, and [we’ll] try to get 1 percent better every day and see where it takes us.”

The Gophers will scrimmage the Minnesota Twins on Thursday at their spring training field in Ft. Myers. Florida. They will return to the regular season next weekend in Port Charlotte, Florida with a three-game weekend against Boston College, Chicago State and Mount St. Mary’s.