Freshman Sawyer evolving into a top reliever

Dalton Sawyer earned his first win last Wednesday against Augsburg.

Samuel Gordon

Dalton Sawyer’s latest performance on the mound fared much better than the first time he pitched in a Gophers uniform.

The Gophers freshman relief pitcher earned his first career win in a triumph over Augsburg at Siebert Field on April 16.

Sawyer made his first career appearance in Minnesota’s second game of the season, a 14-0 loss to college baseball powerhouse UCLA. He walked four batters and allowed five runs in 1.1 innings in that game.

But Gophers head coach John Anderson let him work out the kinks, and he has seen enough improvement in Sawyer — especially on the mental side — to trust him as one of his top middle relievers.

Sawyer leads all relievers on the Gophers with 25.1 innings pitched. His 12 appearances are the third-most on the team behind veterans Billy Soule and Kevin Kray’s 13.

“[Sawyer’s] place on the mound is much more poised,” Anderson said. “He’s developed a routine to settle himself down there.”

Sawyer said he throws pretty well in jams. In his win over Augsburg, he inherited a runner on second base and struck him out to end the inning.

Sawyer has thrown 7.1 straight scoreless innings dating back to April 7.

His fastball is in the 90 mph range, and he’s done a better job commanding it and keeping it low in the strike zone, Anderson said.

The fact that he’s one of just two left-handed relievers on the Gophers makes him even more valuable.

“He’s made huge strides,” Anderson said. “He’s going to be a good pitcher in this program.”

Cancellations afford Gophers a breather

The Gophers’ series against Michigan State last weekend was canceled, marking Minnesota’s first canceled Big Ten series since 2007.

The weather has canceled or postponed many Gophers games and practices since the inception of their new, on-campus Siebert Field.

Senior Kurt Schlangen said though the cancellations aren’t ideal, the team used the weekend off as a regrouping period.

Minnesota practiced outside Tuesday, but it had been practicing indoors at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex before that.

Anderson said the weekend off was especially good for the pitchers, who hadn’t thrown in warm weather since the team’s last games in the Metrodome.

“You hate missing games, you hate not being on the baseball field, but we did get a chance to catch our breath a little bit and slow down,” Anderson said.

“It wasn’t a waste of time by any means.”