Gophers Adapt and Grow in Fresh Fall Format
Oct. 11, 2017

Gopher Baseball will host its final open scrimmages of the 2017 fall season this Thursday and Friday, Oct. 12-13. Weather-permitting, start time for each game is set for 3:45 p.m. with batting practice set for just around 2 p.m.
A string of injuries to position players proved a blessing in disguise as Gopher Baseball changed up the format during fall ball and saw growth around the diamond.

“You do things from year-to-year based on the age of your personnel, the health of your team. Every year is different,” said head coach John Anderson as he begins his 37th season at the helm of the Maroon & Gold.  The team was a bit short-handed this fall due to players having surgeries to heal injuries or bringing in long workloads from summer ball.  So short-handed, in fact, they were unable to field two teams for the annual Steak ’n’ Beans series when they began the fall season.

So, Anderson and the coaching staff got creative. “The staff and I came into the fall with the idea that we want to look at people at different positions. From that standpoint, it’s been a real plus. We learned a lot more about what people can do. Maybe somebody could fill in for a weekend or be a serious candidate [at a new position] if you want to put that line-up on the field that day.”

That flexibility will allow the coaching staff to line the team up uniquely in the spring based off that week’s opponent. “I’m always interested in getting the best team on the field that day against the pitcher we are facing, whether it’s a defensive team, or we want more speed on the field, or whatever the case may be.”

Some players who have seen time around the diamond may surprise Gopher fans. Senior first baseman Toby Hanson has spent time tracking fly balls in the outfield. Senior third baseman Micah Coffey has spent time on the other side of the diamond. Sophomore Jordan Kozicky, continuing to develop at every position on the diamond, will now serve as the Minnesota’s third catcher. Meanwhile, junior Cole McDevitt and sophomore Eli Wilson may get a chance to rest their legs from catching as they each spent time at first base and Wilson at second base during the fall.

The Maroon & Gold saw benefit from more than just trying new positions at Siebert Field this fall. “We changed the format [with] playing on Thursdays and Fridays. I wanted Saturday to be a day we could use for whatever we needed to do that week,” said Anderson. “It’s been easier on the players’ bodies. You have long days on the field when you are practicing six days a week, so we tried to spread it out a bit more. We have older position players, so we aren’t re-authoring new swings. They know our systems, and so, they don’t need to be out there 18 hours a week. We can get their work done in a shorter period of time.”

Even with the change in format and lighter workload some days, Anderson and his staff have seen growth in the players. “Everyone’s been hungry throughout the summer and the fall to continually try to improve their games. We haven’t stayed stagnant. No one has been satisfied with where they were last year. We have a group that has consistently been on time and worked hard. I tell them all the time, the fall is the time to start forming … a winning culture that is going to hold up through adversity this spring.”

With the systems in place, a culture being developed, and new opportunities on the horizon, the fall has benefitted the Gophers greatly. Though most importantly, the team has overcome the issue that forced them to try new things. “No question. By the end of the fall, we should be fully healthy,” Anderson said.

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