In 2016, Gopher baseball was not projected to finish in the top 6 in the Big Ten yet they managed to put together a very strong year to finish with their 23rd Big Ten Regular Season title. This year, they were also not expected to be in contention for a title, but with 2 weeks remaining they are sitting just a 1⁄2 game behind first place Nebraska, tied with Michigan for 2nd.
Time to take a look at Gopher baseball and what is happening over the last couple weeks as the Gophers look for back-to-back B1G Titles.
If you read nothing else of this post...GET OUT AND GO WATCH SOME GOPHER BASEBALL!!
The next two weekend series are at home and Siebert Field is a great place to watch some very entertaining baseball. Long Beach State is a top 10 team this weekend and Purdue will be here next weekend with a mid-week double-header in between.
An interesting finish to the season with 8 games in 9 days. Five of them will be conference games and a rare series with a West Coast team coming to Siebert Field this late in the year.
Long Beach State - Currently ranked #8 nationally by Baseball America and #10 by D1Baseball.com. The Beach currently holds a sizeable lead in the Big West Conference and is playing to be a Super Regional host in the upcoming College World Series playoffs. Gophers are hosting and it should be a gorgeous weekend for baseball at Siebert. Wins here really won’t be much of a factor for the Gophers. Maybe winning 2 out of 3 would give them a shot at earning an at-large bid if they go on to win the B1G regular season title but lose in the B1G Tourney. But their RPI isn’t real strong this year so an at-large seems like it would be tough.
Rutgers - Comes to down for a double-header on Tuesday the 16th. This is critical for the Gophers as their series with Rutgers was rained out earlier in the year and the Scarlet Knights are one of the worst teams in the Big Ten. Getting 2 wins here would be a huge help in Minnesota making a run at the regular season title. These two games are huge.
Purdue - Next weekend is the final series of the year and they are hosting Purdue who is a middle of the pack Big Ten team (but has not played a game against any of the top 4 teams in the conference yet). Another crucial series where Minnesota likely needs to go at least 2-1, if not earning the sweep.
- 1st in the Big Ten in hitting. Jordan Kozicky and Micah Coffey are both primary starters and hitting over .350 for the season.
- Fewest strikeouts in the Big Ten, team is putting the ball in play.
- 2nd in Big Ten in fielding.
- Friday starting pitcher, Lucas Gilbreath leads the B1G in batting average against, 3rd in ERA and 4th in Ks.
- Closer Brian Glowicki is one of the best closers in NCAA baseball.
- Jordan Kozicky (rFR) - typically starts in LF and bats leadoff. Kozicky leads the team in hitting (for those who have appeared in at least half of the games).
- Jordan Smith (SR) - bats in the middle of the line up and is usually starting in CF before moving to one of the other spots if/when Mezzenga enters. Started 43 of the team’s 44 games.
- Matt Stemper (SR) - bats in the middle to lower part of the lineup and starts in RF. Tied for team lead in HRs with 5.
- Ben Mezzenga (SO) - started about half of the games and is the team’s CF when he is in the lineup.
- Edwardo Estraga (SO) - struggling at the plate with a .162 average but has started 17 games and played in 29.
The Gopher infield is pretty well set each and every game. Hanson has started every game at 1st, Petterson and Vavra each have 40 starts (out of 44 games) and Coffey has started 37.
- 1B - Toby Hanson (JR) - bats 3rd or 4th and is the only player on the team to have started all 44 games. Leads the team in RBIs, tied for 3rd most in the Big Ten.
- 2B - Luke Petterson (JR) - very good defensively, Petterson has started 40/43 games and is hitting .322 this season.
- SS - Terrin Vavra (SO) - usually bats second in the lineup and is leading the team in runs scored. Following up his great FR season with a very good SO season starting 40 games.
- 3B - Micah Coffey (JR) - having a great junior season after earning 2nd team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore. Coffey has started 37 games and is basically 2nd on the team in hitting with a .352 average. Bats third and is 2nd on the team in RBIs
- C - Cole McDevitt (SO) - Hitting .326 and is the team’s primary starter at catcher hitting around the middle of the lineup.
- C - Eli Wilson (FR) - son of former Gopher and Seattle Mariner Dan Wilson has started 8 games and played in 17 as a backup catcher. In only 33 at bats Wilson his hitting .364 with 11 RBIs.
- IF - Riley Smith (S0) - appeared in 20 games with 6 starts.
- Friday Starter - Lucas Gilbreath (JR) - lefty starter who has been one of the best in the Big Ten this year. The Gophers are 5-1 in Friday Big Ten games with the one loss coming to Nebraska when the Huskers scored a couple late inning runs off the bullpen. As I mentioned above he leads in the Big Ten in batting average against, 3rd in ERA and 4th in Ks.
- Saturday Starter - Brett Schulze (FR) - true fresman from Maple Grove is having a great initial season for the Gophers and just earned himself Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
- Sunday Starter - ?? - It was Senior Toby Anderson but he has really struggled this year (7.62 ERA in 10 starts). This past series the Sunday start went to Sophomore Reggie Meyer who has a 3-0 record on the season with a 3.20 ERA. Look for Meyer to get the starts in the next couple series with Anderson ready to coming in for any long-relief.
- Closer - Brian Glowicki (SR) - Jordan Jess was last year’s closer and he was drafted but Glowicki has filled in brilliantly and leads all of Division I in saves.
That’s the bulk of the roster (minus relievers...sorry). The next three sets of games are going to be rather important. Long Beach State presents an opportunity to boost the team’s RPI and then how they do in the last 5 Big Ten games will determine where they finish up in the standings.
TL:DR...GO WATCH GOPHER BASEBALL