Gophers, Wildcats Set for Big Ten Opener

 Minnesota (11-6) vs. Northwestern (3-14)
Date/Time

 Sat., March 22 - Noon CT 
 Sat., March 22 - approximately 3 p.m. CT
 Sun., March 23 - 1 p.m. CT

Game 1 Probable Pitchers  Alec Crawford (RHP) vs. Brandon Magallones/Matt Portland (RHP)
Game 2 Probable Pitchers
 Jordan Jess (LHP) vs. Brandon Magallones/Matt Portland (RHP)
UNCG Probable Pitchers  Ben Meyer (RHP) vs. Reed Mason (LHP)
Location  St. Charles, Mo. | Lou Brock Sports Complex
Game Day Live  Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3
Social Media  @GopherBaseball | Facebook
Game Notes  Minnesota | Northwestern

March 20, 2014

The Golden Gophers are set to begin their conference season against Northwestern in a series played at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. Head coach John Anderson is entering his 33rd Big Ten season. Minnesota is coming off of a California road trip in which it won four of its five games.

LAST WEEKEND
• Minnesota went 2-1 in a series at Sacramento State.
Alec Crawford earned his first win of the season in a 2-1 game Friday. He pitched six innings and gave up one unearned run.
• In Saturday’s loss, catcher Mark Tatera threw out two steal attempts, and reliever Brian Glowicki threw out another.
• Minnesota won a 10-inning game Sunday. Connor Schaefbauer hit a triple and drove in three runs in the 5-3 win.
Jake Bergren hit 4-for-8 on the weekend with a run, an RBI and a walk. 

OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION
• In two midweek wins at Saint Mary’s (Calif.), the Gophers scored a combined 27 runs on 31 hits.
• Minnesota notched nine extra-base hits (of 19 total hits) in Tuesday’s 15-11 win. Seven of those hits were doubles (tied for the most by a Big Ten team in a game this year), including three by Mark Tatera (tied for most by a Big Ten batter this year). Tony Skjefte hit his second career home run, and Michael Handel hit a triple.
• The 15 runs, including four by Jake Bergren, were the most the Gophers have scored this season.
• A 12-1 win Tuesday was Minnesota’s largest margin of victory since beating Indiana by 11 on April 23, 2011.
Troy Traxler hit 3-for-4 Wednesday. Gopher pitchers held the Gaels to one run on nine his, and the defense turned three double plays. 

ABOUT THE WILDCATS
• Last weekend, Northwestern dropped games against Evansville, LIU Brooklyn, Maine and Bucknell at the RussMatt Invitational.
• Freshman right fielder Matt Hopfner leads the Big Ten in batting average at .433 (26-for-60). Hopfner earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors in February after hitting .500 in the Snowbird Classic.
• The Wildcats’ wins have come against Nebraska-Omaha, Mississippi Valley State and South Florida.

ROAD WARRIORS
With the demolition of the Metrodome, Minnesota will not play a true home game until at least March 26. The Gophers will play games in six different states (Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, California and Missouri) before their Siebert Field home opener. The first two series were neutral-site home games for Minnesota, and the Northwestern series will be a neutral site away game. The others were true road games or tournament games. Minnesota will be on the road for 10 of 14 weekends during the season. In addition to their early non-conference games, the Gophers will also travel to play Florida State in Tallahassee May 2-4. 

CATCHING CAROUSEL
A series of injuries has resulted in four different Gophers starting at catcher this season. Senior Matt Halloran caught the first game of the season, but freshman Austin Athmann became the regular backstop after that. Redshirt junior Mark Tatera caught a few games during that time, until an injury to Athmann made Tatera the first option for the Sacramento State series. Tatera caught all three games of the weekend, the first Gopher catcher to do so this season. Redshirt freshman Troy Traxler then started the Tuesday Saint Mary’s game, and caught most of the Wednesday game as a substitute. 

MR. UTILITY
Redshirt junior Mark Tatera is the only Gopher listed on the roster as a “utility” player, and that has proven true early in the season. Tatera has started games at three different positions: first base (two games), third base (seven games) and catcher (seven games). He has also moved among positions during games.

SUNDAY MATINEE STAR
Junior right-hander Ben Meyer has turned in three consecutive one-run starts of at least six innings. Meyer collected his first win of the year by holding Louisiana Tech to one run on two hits March 2. On March 9, he again pitched seven innings against UNC Greensboro, tying a career high with six strikeouts while surrendering just one run on five hits. Meyer struck out six and held Sacramento State to one run on six hits March 16. Meyer’s 2.48 ERA and 29.0 innings pitched lead Minnesota’s strarting corps.

ZERO ZERO ZERO
Relievers Dalton Sawyer and Neal Kunik have not yet given up an earned run. Sawyer leads the way with 13 innings pitched without an earned run, and just one unearned run. He also has one win and two saves. Kunik has one win and 4 1/3 scoreless innings pitched. 

WALK THIS WAY
Minnesota has walked 76 times this season, 22 more times than it has walked its opponents. The Gophers rank third in the Big Ten in walks and second in walks allowed (54). Michael Handel has walked 13 times, tied for fourth in the conference. Connor Schaefbauer and Jordan Smith have each walked 11 times. 

IRON MAN
The only Gopher who has started all 17 games at the same position is shortstop Michael Handel. Second baseman Connor Schaefbauer started the first 16 games at second base before Chris Schaaf played his first full game at second base.