Big Ten season opens versus Wolverines

Michigan is 15-3 and a front-runner, while the Gophers have struggled so far.

Matt Perkins

The Big Ten regular season begins this weekend as Minnesota’s baseball team plays host to Michigan.

But there will be no easing into it.

Michigan has established itself as the Big Ten front-runner, and the Wolverines’ pitching consistency is the main reason for their hot start.

This is in stark contrast to the inconsistent effort from the Gophers’ rotation so far.

The Gophers and Wolverines open up their Big Ten seasons against each other for the third season in a row today through Sunday at the Metrodome. Minnesota has won the series the last two years.

The Gophers (7-11) are in search of a fourth-consecutive Big Ten regular season crown, which no team in program history has accomplished. And the first weekend of the season could prove important when it comes down to the last.

But they’ll have to do it this year without Glen Perkins, who was 15-0 in Big Ten play in his career.

“That’s reality setting in,” coach John Anderson said. “You lose good players, other players come in, and you tried to stay focused and work with what you have.”

Michigan, on the other hand, has worked an experienced roster to a 15-3 start.

All records aside, Anderson said the weekend series will be a battle pitting rotation against rotation.

The numbers aren’t on the Gophers’ side, with the Wolverines coming into the series with a team ERA of 2.60, compared to the Gophers’ 5.40.

With senior Josh Krogman out until next weekend with soreness in his throwing shoulder, Minnesota will likely start Matt Loberg, Cole DeVries, Dustin Brabender and Josh Oslin.

Loberg, for one, said he is ready to go.

“Obviously, this is my fourth year, and Michigan has seen me a lot and know I’m going to come right after them,” he said. “Hopefully, my execution will be better than theirs.”

Loberg currently ranks seventh in the Big Ten with a 2.43 ERA, and freshman Brabender will be making the first Big Ten start of his career.

“Wow, I’m excited,” Brabender said. “But I should be fine as long as I get my three pitches across.”

The Gophers’ foursome will be facing the best rotation in the Big Ten.

Michigan’s Sunday starter, Derek Feldkamp, leads the Big Ten with a 1.29 ERA and is 4-0, and today starter Jim Brauer is fifth with a 1.97 ERA. In fact, all of Michigan’s starters have winning records and ERAs under 3.50.

Although Anderson said Michigan is going to be a front-runner in the Big Ten, he said that nobody will truly know until mid-May.

Even if this weekend is important.

“It’s going to come down to the last weekend,” Anderson said. “It always does.”

Caution for Krogman

Krogman will sit out this weekend’s series but should be ready to go next weekend against Indiana.

In 2003, Krogman had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Anderson said the soreness isn’t anything serious.