Gopher baseball is in just it's second weekend and as far as out of conference games, this is a huge weekend. The Gophers are scheduled to face St. John's (4-0), #11 Louisville (3-0) and Connecticut (0-0). All three are considered among the top 5 teams in the Big East this year so this should be an excellent challenge for the Gophers.
Webcasts may be available HERE.
Friday vs. St. John's
The Red Storm took on New Orleans last week and dominated. Game three was actually a 31-6 win. That looks more than impressive but keep in mind that New Orleans is transitioning to Division III next season so the level of competition is dramatically lower than even the Gopher's first opponent in Akron. It should be noted that 1B-Paul Karmas did have a monster game in that 31 run outburst. Karmas knocked in 10 RBIs and hit 3 HRs from the clean-up spot. That is about 2 seasons of production for Nick Punto.
St. John's returns 5 regular position players who made at least 34 starts and hit .331 or better. 4 starting pitchers who accounted for 44 of the team's 52 starts. And their primary closer from a 30-win team in 2009. Their 2010 statistics are hard to read because of the near DIII competition but one should keep an eye on Karmas, OF-Jimmy Parque and 3B-Greg Hopkins.
RHP - Seth Rosin should take the mound for the Gophers in game 1 and he'll likely face RHP - Bruce Kern who is 1-0 this year and finished 5-4 in 2009.
Saturday vs. Connecticut
The Huskies have not played a game yet this season. They have a solid and experienced lineup as they return eight regulars. Where they may struggle is on the mound. The Huskies lost three key relief pitchers and their #1 starter.
Since they have yet to play a game it is hard to gauge what to expect here. This should be a solid test but probably the most winable of the three. Sophomore OF-Greg Springer and Michael Olt are the position players to watch.
The anticipated pitching matchup will be LHP - Luke Rasmussen for the Gophers vs. LHP - Greg Napo for the Huskies.
Sunday vs. #11 Louisville
This is the key game for the Gophers as the Cardinals are the odds on favorite to win the Big East. They return seven of eight everyday players from a team that made it to a Super Regional last season. All-American, Phil Wunderlich is the player to watch here. They return most of their pitching staff, though they lose last year's ace, Justin Marks.
They opened the season last weekend sweeping Bowling Green and then taking down Moorehead State on Tuesday. The good news for the Gophers is that Louisville has to face Michigan on Friday so we will get the benefit of not facing their "ace" and Michigan is also a very good team who should push the Cardinals.
RHP - Allen Bechstein vs. RHP - Tony Zych (0-0, 99.0 ERA)
This weekend of games will be valuable for the Gophers who seem to notch at least a couple upset wins throughout the non-conference season. Hopefully our pitching depth and defense will carry us to a 3-0 weekend and get us back into the top 30.