Gophers Set to Begin 27-Game Homestand With Milwaukee
The Golden Gophers will be in the confines of the H.H.H. Metrodome for a 27-game homestand, the longest homestand in school history. Running Feb. 24-April 3, Minnesota begins with four games against UW-Milwaukee this weekend. The 28th annual Dairy Queen Classic returns to the Metrodome as the Maroon and Gold host Nebraska, New Mexico State and West Virginia, March 2-4. Followed by a game against Hamline on March 7, the Gophers then host the Metrodome Tournament, March 9-10, as Kansas and Stony Brook come to town. Minnesota continues the homestand with contests against Kansas State (March 13-14), Cal-Poly (March 17-19), North Dakota State (March 20-21), The Citadel (March 23-25) and South Dakota State (March 28). The Gophers then open the Big Ten Conference season at home against Michigan, March 30-31 and April 1. In all, the Gophers will have 38 of 36 Metrodome home games. The May 1 against St. Thomas, while the May 5 game against Penn State is set for Target Field. Last year, Minnesota was unable to play a majority of its home games due to the roof collapse in the Metrodome.
The last time Minnesota faced Milwaukee dates back to 2010 at the Metrodome in a 13-6 loss on a midweek tilt. The four-game series this weekend marks the most games against the Panthers. The Gophers played one game against Milwaukee in 1995 (W, 15-3), doubleheader in 1996 (W, 5-2, 10-2), two in 1997 (W, 11-7, 8-3), two in 1998 (W, 16-3, L, 13-11) and one in 2009 (W, 12-2).
Milwaukee opened the 2012 season with three-straight losses to No. 22 East Carolina last weekend. Predicted to finish fourth in the Horizon preseason coaches’ poll, Milwaukee finished the 2011 season with a 28-28-1 overall mark and a 15-10-1 conference record. Friday starter Eric Semmelhack (Jr., RHP) had 13 starts with an ERA of 3.44 last season, striking out 63 batters in 86.1 innings pitched. Saturday starter Mike Schneider (So., LHP) had eight starts as a rookie last season in 53.2 innings of work and a 5.03 ERA. Also starting on Saturday is Cale Tassi (Jr. RHP). Going 4-3 in his freshman season, Tassi struck out 28 batters and had a ERA of 4.62. The Panthers also return Second-Team All-Horizon outfielder Jonathan Capasso, who batted .313 with 27 runs, 60 hits and 27 RBI. Paul Hoenecke batted .304 last year and had 24 runs, 31 RBI and seven doubles.
Minnesota and Milwaukee will have a pair of brothers competing against each other this weekend. Minneota junior RHP Drew Ghelfi, Minnesota’scould potentially face his younger brother Mitch this weekend, who is a freshman catcher for Milwaukee. Both made their Division I debut last weekend. Drew made his Gopher debut when he pitched an inning in the St. John’s loss, allowing one hit and struck out one. Drew is in his first year with the Gophers after transferring from Iowa Central CC. Mitch went 1-5 and started in a game last weekend in his first week as a Panther.
TJ Oakes started in his second-straight season opener last weekend. In the win over Louisville last Friday, Oakes gave up six hits, one unearned run in 5.2 innings of work to collect the win. Oakes’ win marked the first opening day victory by a starting pitcher since 2001 when Chadd Clarey pitched 5.2 innings in a 9-1 win over Illinois State.
Minnesota had a number of new Gophers make their collegiate debut last weekend. The Gophers had a new shortstop, Michael Handel, who started in all three games during the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. In his first weekend, Handel held a perfect fielding percentage and had seven putouts. Tony Skjefte made his collegiate debut on Saturday when he pinch hit and delivered an RBI double to score the Gophers’ lone run in the 6-1 loss. Jake Bergren played in both the Saturday and Sunday contests, pinch hitting and playing center field. Minnesota had four pitchers make their Gopher debut as well. Ben Meyer and Drew Ghelfi each pitched an inning during the St. John’s loss. Jordan Jess and Lance Thonvold each pitched in the South Florida game, both collecting their first strikeouts of their Gopher career.