Gophers Set to Host Michigan in Big Ten Conference Opener

Go Gophers! Ryan Abrahamson
Go Gophers!
Ryan Abrahamson
Go Gophers!

Minnesota vs Michigan
Tickets Purchase Online
Date Fri-Sun, March 30-April 1, 2012
Time 6:35 p.m.(Fri.), 2:05 p.m. (Sat.), 1:05 p.m. (Sun.)
Location H.H.H. Metrodome
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Audio GopherSports.com (Listen Online

March 29, 2012

PROBABLE STARTERS
Fri: Brandon Sinnery (Sr., RHP) vs. TJ Oakes (Sr. RHP)
Sat: Bobby Brosnahan (Jr., LHP) vs DJ Snelten (So., LHP)
Sun: Ben Ballantine (Jr., RHP) vs Austin Lubinsky (Sr., RHP)

MICHIGAN NOTES
• The Wolverines open the Big Ten Conference season this weekend after going 12-13 in non-conference play.  
• Minnesota holds a 94-86 all-time record against Michigan, including a three-game sweep over the Wolverines last May. The Gophers visited Ann Arbor, Mich., May 6-8 and came away with 4-1, 11-10 and 6-2 wins.
• In the last 20 years, Minnesota and Michigan have opened the conference season four times. In the conference opener, the Gophers hold a 3-1 record.

ON THE DOCKET
Minnesota concludes its 27-game homestand with a midweek game against Augsburg on April 3rd at 6:35 p.m. Following the Auggies game, the Gophers will hit the road for the first time since Feb. 17-19, when it opened the season at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. The Gophers travel to Columbus, Ohio to face the Ohio State Buckeyes, April 6-8. Game times are 6:35 p.m. Friday, 3:05 p.m. Saturday, 12:05 p.m. Sunday (ET). Sunday's game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

GOPHERS IN THE BIG TEN OPENER
Over the course of the last 10 years, Minnesota is 7-3 in Big Ten openers and 14-6 in the 20-year span. In the last 10 years, the Gophers have opened up the conference season against Purdue (2011, 2010), Indiana (2009, 2008), Penn State (2007, 2006), Michigan (2005 and 2004) and Michigan State (2003, 2002). In the last 20 years, the Gophers have also faced the Wolverines in 2000 (8-0) and 1993 (1993). During that span and the previous four series, the Gophers are 13-1.

IN THE GOPHER ROTATION
Minnesota will send junior TJ Oakes to the mound Friday night against Michigan. Oakes is 4-1 on the season, in six starts. On the season, Oakes has the team's lowest ERA set at 1.56 in a team-high 40.1 innings pitched. Drafted last year by the Minnesota Twins, Oakes returns as the Gophers' Friday starter for the second-straight season. A two-time Third-Team All-Big Ten, Oakes garnered Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors in the second week of the season and was named to the Big Ten Players to Watch List.
DJ Snelten has moved into the weekend starting rotation, replacing Tom Windle, who is sidelined with an injury. Making the most of his weekend opportunity, Snelten holds a 1.89 ERA and has started in five games this season and seeing action in eight. He also has one save on the season, coming in the opening contest. In his last two starts against Cal Poly (3/18) and The Citadel, Snelten has been outstanding. In his last two starts, he holds a 0.00 ERA in 13.0 innings pitched, struck out 10 and walked two.
Austin Lubinsky will go to the mound on Sunday. Having his best two pitching performances back-to-back, Lubinsky has come back to perform well against Cal Poly and The Citadel. Against Cal Poly, he pitched 7.0 innings, two earned runs on just five hits. In the Sunday game against the Bulldogs, Lubinsky held a shutout in 8.0. In his past two starts, Lubinsky has held a 1.20 ERA in 15.0 innings pitched. Drafted by the San Francisco Giants last year, Lubinsky returns for his senior season.  

GOPHERS LOOK CONTINUE STRONG FIELDING
Minnesota looks to continue its strong tradition of fielding in 2012. In 2011, the Golden Gophers held a .969 clip for the season to rank third in the Big Ten. The Gophers set a new school record by fielding a .974 in 2010 and had a .971 percentage in 2009. Minnesota holds a .973 fielding percentage in the first month of play, tied for second in the Big Ten Conference. Starting shortstop Michael Handel leads the Big Ten Conference with 82 assists as the Golden Gophers trail only Nebraska (.977) and is tied with Michigan.

KEEP IT GOIN'
Troy Larson has reached base safely in the past 12 games dating back to the March 11 game against Stony Brook. Larson ended his hit streak at nine against The Citadel (3/24), but reached base on a walk. Minnesota's longest hit streak of the season belonged to Dan Olinger, who went 14-straight games with a hit. Last year, former Gophers AJ Pettersen and Justin Gominsky had the longest hit streak, set at 19 and 11 games, respectively.  

SCOUTING THE WOLVERINES
Michigan enters the Big Ten Conference season with a 12-13 overall record and went 1-1 this week. After a 6-1 win over Oakland, the Wolverines fell to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday. Like Minnesota, Michigan opened the season at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge and with 2-1 against West Virginia (14-3) and Seton Hall (2-1) and fell to Pittsburgh (9-8). Coached by Rich Maloney, the Wolverines have belted out 16 home runs this season, which ranks second in the Big Ten. Right fielder Michael O'Neill leads most of Michigan's statistical categories, including RBI (23), home runs (6), hits (35) and doubles (nine). Left fielder Will Drake enters the weekend with a .333 batting average and 18 RBI, while center fielder Patrick Biondi leads the team with 24 runs scored and on-base percentage (.457). In the past 10 games, Biondi has gone 18-37.

Projected starting pitchers for Michigan is senior right-hander Brandon Sinnery, who had started in six games, and had a 1-2 record and a 4.50 ERA. Junior left-hander Bobby Brosnahan holds a 2.10 ERA and is 3-2 this season in 34.1 innings pitched. Junior right-hander Ben Ballantine enters the weekend with a 2.56 ERA in 38.2 innings pitched and holds a 1-0 record in six starts.

THE LAST TIME
Minnesota earned a 6-2 win over the Wolverines on May 8, 2011, which capped off a series sweep. Former Gopher Nick O'Shea hit a home run, while Austin Lubinsky pitched 6.2 innings en route for the win. The sweep against the Wolverines (15-31, 6-12 Big Ten) was the first since taking four games versus Michigan in Minneapolis during April 1-3, 2005. Andy Henkemeyer also collected a pair of hits for Minnesota, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Troy Larson and former Gopher Justin Gominsky each went 1-for-5 with two RBI and scored a run, with Gominsky's hit being a two-run triple that keyed a four-run third for the Gophers.