The 2012 season will be the 125th season of Golden Gopher baseball and Gopher fans will have the opportunity to see the vast majority of Gopher games at home this year.
Typically the Gophers will embark on two warm-weather trips to face some of the talented sun belt and west coast teams. In between they host the DQ Classic which often features one or two nationally competitive teams. Last year the roof of the Metrodome collapsed and the Gophers had very few home games. And they also ran into some bad luck with weather and saw a number of their west coast games canceled as well. This year will be very different as the Gophers will make one short trip to Florida and then they will play 27 consecutive home games, 39 in total.
"I think all of us, players and coaches alike, are happy that we’ll be able to play at home this year," Anderson said. "It’s a significant home stand and I know it’s the longest consecutive home stand in the history of this program as we play 27 home games in a row. I’ve always felt that the first month or the first five weeks of the season is really critical to forming your team. This year, we get to play at home, we know we’re going to play every game and we’re going to get our work in every single day. We’re playing a competitive schedule that will give us a chance to develop our team and hopefully put us in a position to compete for a Big Ten Championship."
Before the 40 day homestand Minnesota will head down to Florida for the Big Ten / Big East Challenge. And this will be incredibly challenging for the Gopher as they will face three of the preaseason top four teams in the Big East.
Louisville - Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's preseason #15 team and picked to finish 2nd in the Big East. I'm sure the Gophers will get to face Justin Amlung who is the preaseason BE Pitcher of the Year.
- St. John's - #11 and the Big East favorite. Outfielder Jeremy Baltz is also the preseason BE Player of the Year.
- South Florida - picked as the #4 team in the Big East.
Then we get to come home for over a month until the Big Ten games begin. In between we will host Nebraska, West Virginia and New Mexico State in the DQ Classic. And a week later we bring in Kansas and Stony Brook to town for the Metrodome Tournament. Stony Brook and Nebraska are both going to have very good squads this year and will be quality opponents. Stony Brook is the alma matter of Joe Nathan and they have two players listed in the College Baseball Daily top 100 players.
Outside of those opponents the Gophers will host Kansas State, Cal Poly, The Citadel and then a handful of regional schools like NDSU, SDSU, Augsburg, St. Thomas and Nebraska-Omaha. None of these teams really stand out in my opinion.
Then of course we get to the Big Ten season. Last year the Gophers were the preseason favorites and their homeless season was not a very good one. I found two things worth pointing out with the Gopher's Big Ten schedule. For the third year in a row the Gophers will be playing a series at Target Field as they host Penn State May 4-6. Then the team that spent nearly all season at home will have to travel for the final two weekends of the season. They will head to Nebraska and then Illinois for the final two Big Ten series before the conference tournament. Both of those squads should be in contention for the Big Ten title, along with Minnesota.
This year a traditionally good and nationally relevant program has been added to the conference in Nebraska, so there is another solid team for the Gophers to contend with as we work towards our 23rd Big Ten title.
I did a quick preview of the roster last June and after doing some research and listening/reading interviews that lineup appears to be pretty close to accurate. What I didn't know was that Michael Handel will be the starting SS. Billy Soule is the likely closer replacing the program's all-time leader in saves. And Bobby Juan (pronounced like June I think) might be starting in RF. Handel, Juan, Snelton and Windle are part of 2010 recruiting class that will be relied upon heavily this year.
Personally I am expecting big things from Gopher baseball 2012. We lost a few very good players but we also return the bulk of our lineup that will be sprinkled with some younger guys that coach John Anderson is pretty excited about. I think our pitching will be outstanding, anchored by T.J. Oakes at the top of the rotation and I think our lineup will be more balanced with your typical solid defense.