Gophers Ride Momentum Into B1G PlayWeekend Spotlight
After going 36-21 overall and 15-8 in the Big Ten a year ago, Minnesota had high hopes for 2018. The Golden Gophers brought back almost all of the key lineup pieces from a team that led the Big Ten in batting and ranked third in fielding percentage a year ago, so it seemed like a slam dunk that the Gophers would be very strong on offense and defense again this spring.
The question mark was on the mound, where Minnesota had to replace five key pieces, headlined by ace Lucas Gilbreath and lockdown closer Brian Glowicki. The Gophers hoped to fill some holes in the staff with a standout group of freshman arms, but it’s impossible to predict how young pitchers will adjust to the Division I level — especially coming from the Upper Midwest — so Minnesota was excited to use its strong nonconference schedule as a barometer.
The Gophers went 1-2 at the Dairy Queen Classic against three Pac-12 teams, then lost two of three games against Creighton, but they bounced back from that adversity with a huge series win on the road at then-No. 11 TCU this past weekend, leaving them at 14-8 heading into their first Big Ten series at Nebraska this weekend.
The Gophers showed some real character in Fort Worth, especially after the Saturday game was suspended by rain in the top of the third inning, with TCU leading 4-0. The Gophers came back Sunday and clawed their way back to tie it up, as their pitching turned in 10 straight scoreless innings, only to lose in walk-off fashion in the 13th. But rather than despair, Minnesota bounced right back to beat talented TCU righty Sean Wymer and the Frogs 8-0 in the rubber game later that day.
“I think this was another opportunity to gauge where we’re at on the road against a quality opponent, just to get a sense for where we are,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “I think we learned something about our team, saw some guys go out there and compete and stick their nose in it. I think what impressed me was the at-bats we had; they’ve got a pretty good pitching staff, they’re gonna shut some people down. Then we had the rain delay and went out and put up 10 scoreless innings against them, lost in the 13th. Then facing their Sunday guy, a talented guy who played for Team USA, they made a couple mistakes on defense, we got some bunts down, then all of a sudden we got it going. To see them respond after that 13-inning game, to see them come out and compete and perform the way in the third game against a pretty good starter, that was impressive.
“So I think the guys found out what it’s like to play on a little bigger stage. I’m comfortable that we gained something from that.”