Minnesota’s struggling offense to take on strong pitching at Missouri State

Robert Mews

By now the strength of the Southern school pitchers is becoming commonplace for Minnesota’s baseball team.

This weekend will be no different as the Gophers (8-7) head down to Springfield, Mo., to face Missouri State (10-7) for a three-game set. It also will be Minnesota’s final nonconference showdown before Big Ten play begins next weekend.

Coach John Anderson said the Gophers will need to try to find some offense in its batting order this weekend if the team is to succeed.

“I think this weekend will be no different,” Anderson said about the opponents’ pitching. “I think, once again, it’s going to be trying to scratch some runs off some outstanding starting pitching, or getting them out of there and getting into their bullpen.”

It may be tough to find an offensive groove because Minnesota once again is faced with having to change its lineup after freshman third baseman Nate Hanson injured his wrist.

The extent of the injury is unknown other than that Anderson said Hanson will be unavailable for a “long time.”

“We’re going to miss his bat in the lineup,” Anderson said. “It’s just a question of whether we can find some offense that can make up for that offense we just lost.”

Hanson was hitting .364 with eight RBIs before the injury. What might be more troubling is that Hanson was starting to solidify the fifth spot in the lineup – a spot that was a question mark earlier in the season. Now Anderson has to come into this weekend trying to figure out another lineup.

However, he did hint that Jeremy Chlan will move over to replace Hanson at third base, and he didn’t leave out the possibility of Mike Mee moving from the outfield to third if there are problems with the offensive production this weekend.

Minnesota is scheduled today to send left-handed Brian Bull (1-3) to face the Bears righty Brett Sinkbeil (3-1).

Sinkbeil has been able to hold opponents to a .155 batting average so far this season, while Bull has pitched solidly but has lacked run support.

“We’ve been seeing good pitching all year,” second baseman Luke MacLean said. “It’s not going to mean anything new for us. We’re just going to go about our normal routine here to prepare for some good pitching like always.”

On Saturday the pitching schedule most likely will put Gophers righty Cole DeVries (2-1) against Missouri State righty Scott Carroll (3-1).

The final game will place Minnesota righty Dustin Brabender (1-3) against lefty Ross Detwiler (2-1).

“They look similar to a lot of teams that we’ve already played so far,” Anderson said. “It looks like a pretty solid defensive team and not a great offensive team.”

Yet when the Bears get on base they steal bases – they have 25 stolen bases in 31 attempts this season

“Our pitchers have done a pretty good job so far keeping runners close to first,” shortstop Dan Lyons said. “And being a middle fielder, I’ll have to do a better job of keeping runners close to second, making sure they don’t steal third.”