Zack Raabe, a spark-plug at the plate for Gophers baseball

Preseason second-team All-American second baseman Zack Raabe has lived up to expectations to begin his junior campaign.

Gophers Infielder Zack Raabe makes a catch at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. The Gophers fell to Duke 3-7.

Jasmin Kemp

Gophers Infielder Zack Raabe makes a catch at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. The Gophers fell to Duke 3-7.

Tony Liebert, Sports Reporter

Second baseman Zack Raabe has been the Gophers baseball team’s most lethal hitter this season; in 40 plate appearances the junior infielder has slashed .484 from the plate with 15 hits, highlighted by four home runs.

A Forest Lake, Minnesota native, Raabe entered his junior season with serious expectations. Through 17 games last season he led the entire country with 31 hits, garnering him a spot on this year’s preseason second-team All-American list.

“There is pressure with everything, pressure is what you make of it,” Raabe said. “My dad talks to me about it all the time.”

Raabe’s dad might be quite recognizable to some Gophers baseball fans. His father Brian Raabe earned All-America honors during his career as a Minnesota infielder in the 1980s. After a successful professional career following his time with the Gophers, Brian has now built Bethel University’s baseball program into a Division III powerhouse as its head coach.

While many people were stuck inside in the early stages of the ongoing pandemic, Zack was able to still consistently work out with his father in his hometown of Forest Lake. His hard work in the offseason has paid off with a remarkable 1.032 slugging percentage and .600 on-base-percentage.

“[Raabe] is a leader. They follow along with him, they learn a lot from him, he’s helped a lot of the younger players,” Gophers head coach John Anderson said. “Zack has picked [up] right where he left off last season.”

The rest of the Gophers’ roster has struggled to find a rhythm from the plate in 2021. Outside of Raabe, Boston Merila is the only player with a batting average above .250, but he has only faced 16 at bats and 17 total plate appearances.

The production gap is significant across the board, as Raabe has 15 more total bases than the next closest player on the roster.

There have been problems with Minnesota’s consistency on the pitching mound through 11 games, but its inability to generate runs has certainly not lightened the load on the pitching staff.

Heading into the Gophers four-game weekend series with Nebraska, offensive production from players not named Zack Raabe could go a long way for Minnesota to pull its way out of a 3-8 start to the season.