Three Gophers Named to 'Players to Watch List'; Gophers Tabbed to Finish Third in Big Ten

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Go Gophers! Kyle Geason
Go Gophers!
Geason was named one of three Gopher players to watch.
Go Gophers!

Full Big Ten Conference Release here.

Senior Kyle Geason, junior TJ Oakes and sophomore Tom Windle was named to the Big Ten's Players to Watch List, announced Tuesday by the Big Ten Conference office. Along with highlighting athletes, the conference announced that Michigan State was selected by the coaches as the preseason favorite to win the conference title in 2012. Following the Spartans on the coaches' preseason top six list are No. 2 Purdue, No. 3 Minnesota, No. 4 Nebraska, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Illinois. The conference's baseball coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three players from their own teams to a Players to Watch List.

Geason has been the Golden Gophers' starting third basemen for the past three seasons. Entering his senior year, he has played and started in 170 games, dating back to 2009. In 602 career at bats, Geason averages .252 for a career and held a .278 batting average in 2010, the year the Gophers won the Big Ten regular season and tournament title. In the field, Geason has been stellar at the hot corner, holding a .938 fielding percentage as a freshman, .919 as a sophomore and .916 as a junior.

A two-time third-team All-Big Ten selection, Oakes was the Gophers' Friday starter in 2011 and looks to take the lead again this year. As a sophomore, the 6-5 right-hander pitched a team-high 85.2 innings and held a 3.26 earned run average in 14 starts. In that span, Oakes struck out 52 batters, including 24 looking. As a rookie, he was named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen team and the first freshman to earn all-conference accolades since Glen Perkins was named in 2003. Oakes returns to the Gophers after being drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round of amateur draft last June.

Tom Windle closed out a phenomenal rookie season when he was named to the 2011 Big Ten All-Tournament Team. Windle pitched eight scoreless innings during the tournament, allowing eight hits and striking out six without a walk.  He started in his second career game against Purdue and pitched five innings in a 1-0 win. In his first season with the Gophers, Windle held an ERA of 1.52 in 41.1 innings pitched, ranking 10th in school history for lowest season ERA. He appeared in 19 games, the third-most games by a Gopher pitcher, and had two saves and struck out 35 batters. 

Minnesota kicks off the season against No. 24 Louisville this Friday in the first of three games of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. Gophersports.com will broadcast all games this weekend. Friday's game against the Cardinals will be at 9 a.m. CT, followed by St. John's Saturday and South Florida Sunday at noon.

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Let's prove them wrong and win another Big Ten title!