Freshman carry U in opener

Sarah Mitchell

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Instead of being greeted by tough Big Ten competition over the weekend, three freshmen members of the Gophers 30th-ranked baseball team made the first introductions.
Jack Hannahan, Scott Howard and Jason Kennedy teamed up offensively and defensively in their first league series and helped Minnesota earn wins in three of four games at Purdue.
“This was their first road series in the league and I thought they handled themselves well,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “They did some good things and I think the older players have done a great job of showing confidence in them.”
The trio’s two redshirt freshmen, Howard and Kennedy, kept Friday’s 6-4 defeat respectable. Purdue starter Russ Morgan handled the Gophers veterans, but could not control the team’s corner outfielders.
Howard and Kennedy combined for five of Minnesota’s nine hits. Kennedy was also responsible for two of the team’s four RBIs.
“We needed to do that, Kennedy and I,” Howard said. (Robb Quinlan and Matt Scanlon) and the other guys can’t always carry the team. We’re going to have to pick things up and (Friday) was one of those nights.”
Hannahan was not in the lineup Friday and went 1-for-1 in a pinch-hitting role on Sunday. The true freshman, who entered the weekend carrying the team’s second highest batting average at .419, made an impact from the plate on Saturday, however.
The third baseman went 4-for-5, including a double and his second career home run. With a convincing showing at the plate, Hannahan’s only downfall came in the field. The St. Paul native committed three errors through 14 innings.
“They’re going to make mistakes, that’s going to happen with young players,” Anderson said. “But you play through those errors and we need our young players to come through.”
Kennedy did come through in the outfield. The Minnetonka, Minn., native hustled back and forth in right field, sliding to make several amazing catches. Kennedy even showcased his arm over the weekend, cutting down two Boilermakers at the plate.
“It’s a new experience for me because I haven’t played four games in a weekend before,” Kennedy said. “I just came in clear-headed and tried to stay relaxed.”
Defensively, Hannahan, Howard and Kennedy scattered four errors over the series. Offensively, the freshmen combined to go 18-for-31, including five extra base hits.
It seems as though Anderson filled in the holes from last season’s record setting team with young replacements who have taken their first steps toward what could be memorable Gophers careers.
“I don’t think we could ask either of those three to do more than they did for us this weekend,” Anderson said.