Head Coach: John Anderson
2006 Record: 34-26 (17-14 in Big Ten)
2006 RPI: 87
Projected 2007 Big Ten Finish:
Baseball America: 3rd
Collegiate Baseball: 3rd
PG Cross Checker 80th
At The Plate: While the Gophers might appear to lack a dominant bat, they have a number of solid offensive players in the lineup. Sophomore sensation Matt Nohelty (.361/23 SB) leads the charge that includes Mike Mee (.291/3/37), Kyle Baran (.340/1/27), Dan Lyons (.274/3/30), Nate Hanson (.294) and Chris Herbert (.370).
Nohelty was a Freshman All-America last year and a member of the All Big Ten third team. Baran and Lyons both captured spots on the Big Ten All-Tournament team. I believe this is an improving offense that might be better than some expect.
On The Mound: Minnesota’s going to have to rebuild their rotation in 2007. The renovation begins with junior Dustin Braebender (6-5, 3.96). Braebender should move into the Friday’s starter role and is considered on of the conference‘s better pro prospects. Kyle Carr should get a turn on the hill, as well. After that, well, it’s less clear. (Technically, it just less clear to me. I’m sure the Minnesota staff knows where this is going.) Let’s go with the safe assumption that returning players will be given a look, but that freshman may find themselves in the weekend mix. Gary Perniar, another junior, will be Coach Anderson’s closer.
The Schedule: The non-conference portion of the Golden Gophers schedule features: The Citadel, Mississippi, Arkansas, two at UC-Santa Barbara, three at Pepperdine. In conference, UMN is the first Big Ten opponent to play a series at Penn State’s new field and there are three more at Michigan. Ohio State, the other conference favorite, does visit Siebert Field in May. Home or away, this doesn’t look like a cakewalk to me.
Bottom Line: I have a theory about Minnesota -- never, ever count them out. They had a disappointing regular season in 2006, then came within a game of capturing the Big Ten tournament title. This year, the Gophers pitching staff doesn’t look as strong as usual, but I just can’t see them not in the conference tournament. By then, Coach Anderson should have his team playing their best baseball of the year.