It finally feels like spring in Minnesota, and in the sports calendar it is definitely spring. We have been a bit preoccupied around here in the early portion of the spring watching Gopher Hockey’s run to the NCAA Championship game, and watching portal moves in both men’s and women’s basketball. Spring football is in full sing with the Spring Game just a week away. The spring sports seasons are in full swing in the conference portion of their seasons, it’s time we give a bit of a recap of how they have been doing when we haven’t been paying as much attention as we maybe should have been. So here is a look at the Minnesota Gophers spring sports seasons and where they will be in action next.
The Minnesota Gophers baseball season has gone significantly better that many would have thought it would have been after the non-conference portion of the season. Minnesota got off to a horrible start losing their first 11 games on the year before finally picking up a 5-3 win over Northern Illinois at US Bank Stadium. Since that 1-11 start the Gophers have gone 8-11 the rest of the way including a 3-3 record in Big Ten play. The Gophers opened the Big ten season with a 2-1 series win over Ohio State in Columbus winning on Friday and Sunday split around a Saturday loss. Last weekend the Gophers opened up Big Ten play at Siebert Field and would drop games on Friday and Saturday to Purdue before getting back at the Boilermakers on Sunday to earn a 9-3 win. Minnesota enters the weekend on a two-game winning streak after earning a come from behind home win over North Dakota State 12-9 on Tuesday night.
Minnesota is being led at the plate by outfielder Brett Bateman. He leads the Gophers in batting average at .349, hits with 37, and on-base percentage at .452 on the season. Freshman Weber Neels leads the Gophers with five home runs and in slugging percentage at .486.
Redshirt senior right-hander Richie Holetz has been the best Gopher on the mound so far entering the weekend with a 2-2 record with six starts and eight appearances on the season. His 2.76 ERA is the best on the squad and his 38 strikeouts just just three off the team lead. Noah Rooney has been the Gophers reliever coming in with a 2-0 record in 13 appearances. His 3.24 ERA is second on the team behind Holetz.
The Gophers will host Iowa for a three game series this weekend which has already been moved around due to the fear of bad weather. The Gophers and Hawkeyes will now play a doubleheader on Friday with the first game beginning at 3PM and the second thirty minutes following the completion of the first game. Game three is currently set for 2PM Saturday but easily could be postponed if the forecast holds. All three games will stream on BTN+.
The Gopher men’s golf team has been in action since Febraury in the spring portion of their schedule. Minnesota has finished in fourth place at the Big Ten match Play tournament, seventh place in the Colleton River Collegiate in South Carolina, 13th place at the Sea Island Collegiate in Georgia, 15th place at the Valspar Collegiate in Florida, and most recently a 15th place finish at the Tiger Collegiate hosted by the University of Missouri last weekend.
The Gophers will head to the Redhawk Intercollegiate at the Pittsburgh Field Club next Monday and Tuesday to complete their regular season. The Big ten Championships will be hosted by Rutgers at the Galloway National Golf Club, in Galloway, NJ from April 28-30th.
It’s been a good spring season for the Gopher women’s golf team. In action since February the Gophers have finished seventh at the Nexus Collegiate in the Bahamas, sixth at the Westbrook Invitational in Arizona, tenth at the Valspar Augusta Invitational in Augusta, Georgia, and most recently sixth place at the Chattanooga Classic April 2-4th.
At that tournament Minnesota freshman Isabella McCauley was named the Big Ten Golfer of the Week after after tying her career-best finish in fifth place at the three-day tournament. She went under par in two rounds and finished at -3. She tied for the second-lowest par three average (2.87), top-10 in par five average (4.87), and tied for the third-most birdies amongst the 94 competitors.
The Gophers have one final regular season tournament left on the schedule this weekend at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational at Ohio State. The Big Ten Championship is the following weekend at the Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh.
The Gopher rowing team has been hampered by weather to start their spring season but are finally getting into the swing of things. They opened their spring with an scrimmage against Gonzaga in Chula Vista, California in March. They opened up real action at Indiana in the final week of March against the Hoosiers and Tulsa. They were limited to just one day of racing due to weather and Minnesota’s top result came from the Second Varsity Eight crew as it finished second in a time of 6:50.3.The host Hoosiers claimed three of the four races completed, while the Golden Hurricane added one race win.
From Indian Minnesota headed to Sarasota, Florida last weekend for the Big Ten Invitational. The Gophers faced off against Michigan State, UCF and UCLA on Froiday morning before facing Rutgers, Stanford and Tennessee in the afternoon. Their best finish was the #2 Varisty 8 boat finishing in thrd place in a time of 6:53.85. Saturday the Gophers were back on the water taking on nationally-ranked Alabama as well as UCLA and Wisconsin. The first varsity eight boat gave the Maroon and Gold its top time of the day, covering the course in 6:29.175 to finish third.
The Gophers will head to Kansas City this weekend for the Kansas Conference Clash hosted by the Kansas Jayhawks before closing out their season at the Dexter Lake Invitational hosted by Oregon State on April 29th and the Big Ten Championships in Indianapolis on May 14th.
The Gopher softball team is having an average season thus far. They have earned a few nice ranked wins late in the non-conference portion of the schedule, but have had pitching issues all season long behind ace Autumn Pease, and have struggled to just a 4-5 Big Ten records thus far.
The Gophers best wins this far in 2023 were a pair of non-conference wins over a then ranked #1 Maryland team at a tournament in Waco, Texas in March, and a 4-1 upset of #20 Oregon in Fullerton, California the following weekend. Minnesota opened the Big Ten season against then ranked #21 and conference favorite Northwestern in Evanston and blew the Friday opener after taking a one run lead to the sixth inning and then losing in extras. Saturday and Sunday were not close as the Wildcats attacked a weak Gophers pitching staff behind Pease.
The following weekend Minnesota returned home and took two of three from Penn State at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Last weekend the Gophers ended Indiana’s 21-game winning streak and took two of three from the Hoosiers to place the Gophers at 4-5 in the conference and currently in 9th place.
The Gophers are behind led at the plate by Duke transfer catcher Taylor Krapf. The sophomore has been a boon to the Gophers offense and defense this season and she leads the team with a.349 batting average, 10 home runs, 30 RBI, and a slugging percentage of .698. Having a breakout season is sophomore third baseman Kayla Chavez who is tearing the cover off the ball of late. She leads the team in hits with 43 and doubles with 11 and is second on the Gophers in batting average .333, and RBI (24). Rounding out the trio of Gopher hitters is true freshman Jess Oakland who has impressed. She is hitting .295 but is second on the team in home runs with 9, is tied for the lead in RBI with 30, and leads the team in on-base percentage at .424.
In the circle it’s been the Autumn Pease show. Coming back from an arm injury last season the 5th year senior is looking like she did two years ago. She has a record of 16-6, a 1.82 ERA, and 174 strikeouts in 134 innings pitched. Pease ranks first in the Big Ten and fourth in the NCAA in strikeouts (174), second in the Big Ten and tenth in the NCAA in victories (16), and second in the Big Ten and 15th in the NCAA in for innings pitched (134.2). Jacie Hambrick has been the #2 starter going 6-5 with a 2.65 ERA.
Minnesota is in East Lansing this weekend taking on the last place Michigan State Spartans. It’s a near must sweep for the Gophers who want to move up the conference standings before their schedule gets much tougher the last few weeks of the season starting with a mid-week doubleheader in Madison against Wisconsin next Wednesday. The Gophers and Spartans face off at 4 Pm Friday, Noon Saturday and 11 AM Sunday all streamed live on BTN+.
It was a brutal season for the Gopher tennis team. Minnesota was hampered by injuries and defections all season and only had seven athletes on their roster. They faired surprisingly well in the no-conference portion of the schedule picking up five wins despite forfeiting the #5 and #6 singles matches every single time they competed. But after just winning one point in the Big Ten conference, and additional injuries occurring, the Gophers were forced to end their season early with five conference matches remaining as they only had three healthy players available to compete.
Minnesota will forfeit the last five matches of their season and will not compete in the Big Ten Tournament.
Track and Field:
Now to the highlight of the Minnesota spring season. The Gophers track and field teams have been electric in the early season. The Gopher men were ranked #1 in the nation as a team in the initial poll for the 2023 outdoor season. Not only was it the first time ever the Gophers were ranked #1, but it was the first time in program history they had entered the Top 10. While some of the rankings have slipped as other teams have picked up better times the Gopher men still have two event groups ranked #1 in the nation in the 100 meters and the hammer throw. The Gophers as a team have dropped to #11 in the country in the most recent poll. The USTFCCCA Event Squad rankings places a rank order to a program’s ‘squad’ of athletes in a particular event, using the cumulative season-best qualifying marks from a team’s top-four ranked athletes on the national descending-order list. A team must have four or more athletes with a valid season-best mark recorded to achieve a ranking in a particular event.
In the 100 meters the Gophers group of Kion Benjamin, Devin Augustine, Carlon Hosten and Jaydon Antoine have the best group this far with Benjamin’s time of 10.13 ranking #10 in the nation, Augustine’s 10.18 ranking #17, and Hosten’s 10.28 ranking #35 in the country.
In the Hammer throw Kostas Zaltos holds the #2 throw in the country at 73.36 meters, Jake Kubiatowicz is ranked #34 at 65.82 meters, Kaleb Siekmeier is #62 at 63.50 meters and Issiah Schafer is #68 at 62.01 meters.
The Gopher men still have an additional five athletes ranked in the top-15 of their evets with Augustine ranking 13th in the 200 meters at 20.49 seconds, Mathew Wilkinson ranking #1 in the nation in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 8:29:35, the 4x100 relay 14th at 39.39, Jak Urlacher #13 in the pole vault at 5.5 meters and Schaefer #6 in the shot put at 19.79 meters.
On the women’s side, it’s Amirya Young’s year and the rest can just sit back and watch. The Gopher 5th year senior already broke school and Big Ten records in the 60 meter dash during the indoor season earning All-American honors. Now she is breaking records outdoors as last weekend at the Jim Click Invitational in Tucson, Arizona Young broke a pair of school records. Young anchored the Gophers 4x100 relay team to a win in the event with a time of 43.88 breaking the program record. Young was joined by Odell Frye, Lauren Hansen and Akilah Lewis on the team. The 43.88 is the No. 11 time in the NCAA this season and is the No. 2 time in the Big Ten.
Individually, Young was the victor in both the 100m and 200m with her 23.10 in the 200m breaking Young’s own school record in the event that she set in 2021. She is ranked #14 in the NCAA this season in the 200m and #1 in the Big Ten. In the 100m, Young’s 11.25 time slots her in the #13 time in the country this season and #3 among Big Ten runners. She was named the Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week for her honors.
Minnesota has tw other top-15 performances in the nation this season with Janielle Josephs ranked #8 in the 400 meters at 52.33 and Nyalaam Jok #13 in the high jump at 1.80 meters.
The Gophers will send a small group of athletes to the Bethel Invitational this weekend while the majority rests up and prepares for split squad action at Minnesota’s own M City Classic on Wednesday, the University of Virginia Invitational in Charlottesville Friday and Saturday and the LSU Alumni Gold Invite next Saturday. Minnesota has two major events left on the schedule including the Drake Relays at the end of April and the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Indiana in mid-May.
Good luck to the Gophers spring athletes as they look to close out 2023 with a bang.