Baseball Regional Preview: #4 Minnesota

Minnesota went 40-19 in 2009 and finished 2nd in the Big Ten at 17-6, qualifying as an at-large for a regional where they played well in finishing as the runner-up to eventual national champion LSU

#4 Seed – Minnesota Golden Gophers

 

Overall Record – 27-28

Conference Record – 15-9 (1st place)

How they qualified for a regional – Won the Big Ten Conference Tournament (Indiana 10-8, Michigan 4-3 (11), Iowa 15-5)

Last Regional Appearance – 2009 (Runner-up, Baton Rouge Regional)

RPI/ISR – 113/128

SOS – 92 (RPI)/114 (ISR)

Record vs. tournament field – 1-7

Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 1-5/8-13

 

Season Summary

 

Minnesota went 40-19 in 2009 and finished 2nd in the Big Ten at 17-6, qualifying as an at-large for a regional where they played well in finishing as the runner-up to eventual national champion LSU.  The Golden Gophers lost most of the heart of their lineup and two of their SP’s so they expected to get off to a slow start with seven FR/Sophs in the starting lineup and it would be an understatement to say they played poorly for most of the first two months of the season.  Despite not playing a difficult schedule,  Minnesota went 2-1 only twice in their first nine weekends, was swept in the Big East challenge (by the three Big East teams that are playing in regionals) and at one point were sitting at 14-24.  But, as the weather warmed up so did the Golden Gophers and they went 13-4 in May, won their last five weekend series to finish with a 15-9 Big Ten record to win the regular season title and won all three games in the Big Ten tournament to clinch the conference’s automatic bid.

 

Offense

 

Batting Average – .306 (NCAA ranking – 133, Conf ranking 6)

Runs Per Game – 6.1 (220, 5)

Home Runs – 38 (209, 4)

Stolen Bases – 37 (250, 9)

Slugging Percentage – .432 (194, 6)

On Base Percentage – .380 (DNR, 6)

Walks – 217 (123, 3)

Strikeouts – 390 (DNR, 4)

HBP’s – 45 (229, 8)

Sac Bunts – 22 (215, 7)

 

Minnesota had a much more potent offense in 2009 with a .314 AVG, 55 HR’s and 78 SB’s but lost several of the main players responsible for those numbers.  The Golden Gophers have relied more on stringing hits together and working opposing pitchers for walks to produce rallies.  Minnesota got off to a slow start at the plate but hit much better over the last month with a .321 team average.  The Golden Gophers have been held to four runs or less 27 times.

 

Batting Order

 

SS #1 Soph AJ Pettersen (RH – .298/.380/.395, 2-36-5) was 2nd team all Big Ten as a FR when he hit .353 but hasn’t hit as well this season.  2nd on the team with 48 R.  Leads the team with 10 HBP.  Went 6-14 with 5 RBI in the Big Ten tournament.

 

LF #13 FR Andy Heckenmeyer (RH – .307/.381/.409, 1-16-5) has been playing most of the time with #15 Soph Kurt Schlangen (.278/.371/.311, 0-15-4) usually starting once a weekend.  Heckenmeyer went 5-11 in the Big Ten tournament.  Schlangen is also one of the backup C’s.

 

RF #9 JR Michael Kvasnicka (Both – .350/.462/.562, 7-46-4) is projected to be drafted in the first couple of rounds next week and be moved to C in the minors (he is one of the backup C’s).  He was 3rd team all Big Ten in 2009 (.341-10-65-5) and 2nd team all-conf this season.  Kvasnicka led the Big Ten with 46 BB and was in the top ten in the conf in H, 2B, TB and OBP.

 

C #6 SR Kyle Knudson (RH – .333/.396/.491, 5-45-1) was 3rd on the team in HR and RBI.  Knudson went 6-17 with 6 RBI in the Big Ten tournament.

 

1B #23 Soph Nick O’Shea (LH – .339/.386/.577, 13-59-0) had a solid FR season (.287-11-44-0), was even better this year and was 1st team all Big Ten.  He was 3rd in the conf in HR, RBI, TB and also in the top ten in the Big Ten in H, 2B and SLG.

 

2B #16 FR Matt Puhl (RH – .327/.397/.436, 1-19-1) has stepped into the lineup right away and done a good job at the plate and defensively.  One issue that he has is making contact because he is 2nd on the team with 43 K’s.

 

3B #4 Soph Kyle Geason (RH –.281/.328/.385, 3-36-4) only hit .229 in 2009 but has improved quite a bit this year.

 

DH #22 Soph Trip Schultz (LH – .336/.430/.458, 2-19-1) and #19 FR Ryan Abrahamson (RH – .278 in 36 AB’s) have been platooning at DH vs. RHP and LHP.  Schultz went 4-7 in the Big Ten tournament.

 

CF #3 FR Troy Larson (RH – .279/.350/.333, 1-17-8) is one of the fastest players on the team and leads them in SB’s.  He leads the team with 7 SAC’s.  Larson has had trouble at the plate and leads the Big Ten with 62 K’s.

 

Defense

 

Fielding .973 (36, 2) – 62 errors.  Solid up the middle with Pettersen (4th in the Big Ten in assists) and Puhl (committed only five errors).  O’Shea and Geason have had issues on the corners and have combined to make 21 errors.  Good athletes in the OF with good arms in CF and RF.

Double Plays – 53 (73, 7)

Stolen Base Attempts – 46-77.  19-32 against Knudson.

WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 54

 

Pitching

 

ERA – 4.62 (43, 1)

BA – .282 (DNR, 2)

HR – 47 (DNR, 4)

BB’s/9 IP – 3.2 (41, 3)

K’s/9 IP – 6.8 (151, 3)

 

Minnesota has been able to rely on the same three SP’s for most of the season and that consistency paid off down the stretch when they started playing better during the Big Ten schedule.  The Golden Gophers have a pretty deep bullpen and a closer that has usually been very tough to beat.

 

Starting Pitchers

 

#29 JR Seth Rosin (RHP – 8-4, 5.02 ERA, 15 starts, 95 IP, 97 H, 12 BB, 88 K, .263 BA, 13 HR, 11 HBP, 8 WP) is a big, intimidating presence on the mound who is projected to go in the first ten rounds in the draft next week.  He has been 2nd team all-conf each of the last two seasons (2009 – 7-1, 4.21 ERA, 15 GS, 77 IP, 82 H, 16 BB, 65 K, .274 BA, 6 HR).  Rosin has a decent changeup and curveball and a fastball that sits in the low 90’s and can touch the mid 90’s but the problem has been that it often straightens out, resulting in hitters being able to get the bat around on it and he leads the staff in HR’s allowed.  He has very good control for a big pitcher and will work inside and he leads the team in HBP.  Rosin has been a work horse who is 2nd in the Big Ten in K’s and 5th in IP and AVG.  He went 5-2 in conf games but only had a 5.13 ERA and struggled last weekend when he allowed 7 R on 10 H in 7 2/3 IP against Indiana.  Rosin does a good job of holding runners (7-14 SB).

 

#39 FR TJ Oakes (RHP – 4-3, 3.71 ERA, 15 apps, 13 starts, 80 IP, 86 H, 21 BB, 51 K, .275 BA, 7 HR, 7 HBP, 1 WP) stepped right into the rotation and has been the Sat SP most of the season.  Oakes relies on spotting his fastball and changing speeds and is 9th in the Big Ten in AVG.  His #’s went up a little in Big Ten games (4.43 ERA, .291 BA, 5 HR) but he threw well last week when he held Michigan to 3 R on 8 H in 7 IP.  Oakes has done a solid job of holding runners (6-10 SB).

 

#10 JR Phil Isaksson (LHP – 6-1, 3.29 ERA, 17 apps, 11 starts, 82 IP, 70 H, 26 BB, 57 K, .236 BA, 8 HR, 8 HBP, 2 WP) only threw nine innings in 2009 and started the year in the bullpen but once he got his chance in the weekend rotation he was the most effective SP on the team.  Isaksson led the team in wins and ERA and was 2nd in the Big Ten in AVG and 5th in ERA.  He is a crafty lefty who relies on changing speeds to keep hitters off balance.  He was consistent throughout the season and had a 3.28 in Big Ten games and held Iowa to 1 R on 5 H in 7 2/3 IP in the tournament clinching win against Iowa.  Isaksson also does a solid job of holding runners (6-11 SB).

 

Relief Pitchers

 

Closer – #42 JR Scott Matyas (RHP – 4-1, 2.59 ERA, 24 apps, 7 saves, 31 IP, 27 H, 13 BB, 48 K, .235 BA, 3HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP) was 3rd team all Big Ten this season and was 2nd team all-conf in 2009 when he had 15 saves (0-1, 2.22 ERA, 28 IP, 21 H, 7 BB, 45 K, .202 BA).  He is a hard thrower with a low 90’s fastball and a curveball and is tough to beat when Minnesota has the lead. He usually doesn’t go more than one inning but he did go 2 2/3 IP in the key game of the Big Ten tournament, an extra inning win against Michigan.

 

#35 FR Billy Soule (RHP – 1-4, 3.20 ERA, 20 apps, 1 save, 45 IP, 44 H, 20 BB, 33 K, .262 BA, 1 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP).

#28 JR Luke Rasmussen (LHP – 1-4, 5.53 ERA, 19 apps, 4 starts, 42 IP, 55 H, 10 BB, 25 K, .316 BA, 2 HR, 8 HBP, 2 WP).

#38 SR Allen Bechstein (RHP – 1-2, 8.22 ERA, 13 apps, 5 starts, 31 IP, 49 H, 15 BB, 16 K, .380 BA, 4 HR, 7 HBP, 2 WP).

#40 Soph Austin Lubinsky (RHP – 1-2, 4.85 ERA, 9 apps, 6 starts, 26 IP, 34 H, 10 BB, 18 K, .330 BA, 6 HR, 1 HBP, 4 WP).

#21 JR Cullen Sexton (RHP – 0-1, 6.65 ERA, 18 apps, 23 IP, 7 BB, 17 K, .318 BA, 1 HR, 8 HBP, 4 WP).

#27 JR Tim Ryan (RHP – 0-2, 6.00 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 18 IP, 22 H, 14 BB, 6 K, .324 BA, 0 HR, 3 HBP, 7 WP).