March 8, 2013
The Western Illinois Leathernecks come to town, March 8-10 at the Metrodome. Friday's game is set for 6:35 p.m., followed by 2:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday. The Western Illinois series marks the first between the two schools. It also marks the third new opponent in two weeks for Minnesota as it faced Dartmouth and Utah for the first time.
Western Illinois comes into the Minnesota series with a 2-7 record. The Leathernecks opened the season with a series against Arkansas as they dropped two out of three. After a win against Arkansas State on Feb. 23, Western Illinois is looking to end a five-game losing skid. In their last action, the Leathernecks fell to Wichita State (11-3), Iowa (7-3) and Arkansas-Little Rock (11-3). Manny Reyes and Jake Moore have each played in eight games and are batting .300. Dan Dispensa is hitting .265 in nine starts and 34 at bats. Jameson Henning leads the RBI category with four, while four others have three RBI. The scheduled starters are John White and Tyler Willman. White will be making his second start of the season and holds a 0-1 record. With a 2.92 ERA, White has pitched 12.1 innings, walked five and struck out seven. Willman is scheduled to make his third start and is 0-2 on the season. With a 8.49 ERA, Willman has seen action in 11.2 innings, walked six and struck out seven. Sunday's starter has yet to be determined. Brian Loconsole has appeared in three games and has saves in both Leatherneck wins. In four innings pitched, he holds a 2.25 ERA.
Minnesota will send Tom Windle (Friday), Ben Meyer (Saturday), and Jordan Jess (Sunday) to the mound this weekend. Windle returns to the weekend rotation after he suffered an injury during the 2012 preseason. He came back into the mix during the Big Ten Conference season in relief. Making 18 appearances as a sophomore, Windle saw action in 12 league games. Named Baseball America's Big Ten's Preseason Pitcher of the Year, Windle held a 3.27 earned run average last season. Against UCLA two weeks ago, Windle held the Bruins scoreless in his 4.0 innings he pitched. He collected his first win of the season in the Gopher home opener against Western Michigan. He now holds a 3.21 ERA and struck out a team-high 11 batters.
Ben Meyer is coming off a great rookie season and is scheduled to start in Saturday's game. Named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team in 2012, Meyer held a 2.37 ERA in 38.0 innings pitched and 15 appearances. In his six Big Ten games, he held a 0.60 league ERA. Last Saturday, Meyer pitched eight innings, allowed one unearned run and struck out five. On Sunday, Jordan Jess is scheduled to start. As a freshman last season, he appeared in 12 games and had five starts. In 24.2 innings pitched, Jess held a 4.01 ERA, struck out 22 batters and allowed 11 earned runs. In his start against WMU (2/24), Jess earned his first win of the year when he went a career-best 6.0 innings and struck out seven.
Like last season, Minnesota has already been struck by the injury bug early this season. DJ Snelten, a 2012 Gopher weekend starter, is sidelined with an injury this season and is expected to be back in the Gopher lineup at the Big Ten season. Minnesota is also missing Alec Crawford, another potential starter for the Gopher weekend rotation, also out with an injury. Andy Henkemeyer also suffered a shoulder injury last weekend during the Dairy Queen Classic and is unknown upon his return. He was the only Gopher player to see action in every game in 2012. Last year, Minnesota had a different batting order in 54 of 56 games.
Minnesota improved to 7-5 when it defeated Hamline this past Wednesday, 3-1. The Gophers utilized six pitchers as Alex Tukey earned his first victory of the season. He came in relief over starter Kyle O'Shea and had two strikeouts in 1.2 innings pitched. Jake Bergren and Troy Larson scored two of the three runs Gopher runs, while Kurt Schlangen went 1-4 with an RBI.
Minnesota stole four bases in the game and added two sacrifice flies. In all, the Gophers had 13 position players see action. Along with O'Shea and Tukey, Minnesota also used Drew Ghelfi, Dalton Sawyer, Kevin Kray before Billy Soule had his fourth save of the season.