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Opponent Preview: Minnesota

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Meet the Golden Gophers... Don’t be fooled by their 5-5 record

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 20 Big Ten Super Saturday - Minnesota v Ohio State Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Minnesota

Mascot: Garden Killers | School Location: Minneapolis, MN | Conference: Big Ten

2020 Record: 5-5 (0-0, T-1st) | 2020 RPI Rank: 28

2019 Record: 27-27 (15-9, T-3rd) | 2019 RPI Rank: 64

2018 Record: 43-15 (18-4, 1st) | 2018 RPI Rank: 12


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis, MN)

Game Time(s): Sunday, Mar 1 @ 7:00 pm

TV: Big Ten Network Plus / FloBaseball

Radio: TuneIn App, GoPack (Sunday)

Live Stats: Gopher Sports (Sidearm Stats)


Tell me about this team

First off, check out what we wrote in the preseason as not a lot has changed there.

As for what’s going on this year, I know what you’re thinking: “They’re 5-5, how good can they really be?” Well, that record is completely deceptive at first blush.

Minnesota’s five losses this year, with the record of those teams in parentheses: Pepperdine (10-1), San Diego (8-2), TCU x2 (10-1), Duke (9-1).

Minnesota’s five wins this year: Oregon (6-4), Arizona (7-3), TCU (10-1), South Dakota State (2-9), North Carolina (8-4).

So, yes. The team is dangerous and cannot be taken lightly.

The Golden Gophers are led by their two-headed starting pitching of Max Meyer and J.P. Massey. Meyer is a Top 25 player for the 2020 MLB Draft. They also have a bunch of experienced arms to rely on in the bullpen, and although the numbers for those guys don’t look all that impressive thus far, given the level of competition it’s a safe bet to assume that they’ll only get better as the season progresses.

As a team, Minnesota is slashing .259/.349/.386. Again, level of competition needs to be taken into consideration here, but the 37:103 BB:K rate as a team is alarming regardless of who you’re playing. They have seven guys with eight or more strikeouts, and nobody on the team has more than 40 ABs to their credit.

So, yeah, the numbers don’t look great, but this is a team that should be an NCAA Regional team and could be a top 3 team in the Big Ten by the end of the regular season.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Sunday: RHP Drake Davis (rSO)


Key Players:

Offense

3B Jack Wassel (rJR) - .389/.488/.694, 36 AB, 5 2B, 2 HR, 6 R, 10 RBI, 7 BB, 7 K, 2-2 SB. Went 3-for-5 with a 2B and HR against Duke yesterday. Had an up-and-down 2019 in his first year of extensive action. Swinging a really good stick right now.

2B Zack Raabe (SO) - .425/.489/.600, 40 AB, 4 2B, 1 HR, 8 R, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 4 K, 0-2 SB. Legacy player for Minnesota as his father was an All-American with the Gophers back in the day (which was a Tuesday). Is 9-for-13 in his last three games with 2 2B and a HR. Impact bat and leader on the team.

CF Easton Bertrand (JR) - .350/.409/.800, 20 AB, 0 2B, 3 HR, 5 R, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 10 K, 0-0 SB. Hit a home run in yesterday’s loss to Duke, his third HR of the year. Was a key bat for them last year, but like a whole lot of others on this team, is striking out way too much this year.

LF Andrew Wilhite (SO) - .400/.478/.450, 20 AB, 1 2B, 0 HR, 4 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 9 K, 1-1 SB. An unsustainably high BABIP thus far, but also striking out a ton (he had a 8:25 BB:K ratio last year in just 83 PA). But, hey, a hot bat is a hot bat nonetheless.

SS Jordan Kozicky (rSR) - .188/.308/.313, 32 AB, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 R, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 16 K, 1-1 SB. A lot of power (21 career HR, including 11 last year) from a not huge frame (6’1, 180), but a lot of strikeouts, too. Has done the odd thing of progressively getting worse in his BB:K ratio year-by-year for four years now.

Pitching

RHP Drake Davis (rSO) - 1-0, 8.59 ERA/2.32 WHIP/.300 OBA, 7.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 8 BB, 11 K. Transfer from Arizona State, although he never suited up for the Sun Devils. Has very good stuff, but control is a major issue. Hasn’t gone more than 3.0 IP in any of his three appearances this year, so you can bet the leash will be short with him again.

RHP Patrick Fredrickson (JR) - 0-2, 14.29/3.00/.400, 5.2 IP, 10 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 7 BB, 4 K. Was a Freshman All-American and the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in 2018, but has had a rough go of it ever since. The ability is still there, I just don’t think the confidence remains anymore. The 6’7, 220 lbs righty faced one hitter in the Gophers’ 3-7 extra-innings loss to Duke yesterday, so we may well see him in this one.

RHP Max Meyer (JR) - 2-1, 2.75/0.86/.159, 19.2 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 6 BB, 31 K. We won’t see him in this one, but he deserves inclusion because 1) he’s a top prospect for the 2020 MLB Draft and, 2) he dominated UNC on Friday (9.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 14 K).

RHP Trent Schoeberl (FR) - 1-0, 0.00/1.08/.148, 8.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 7 K. Off to a solid start to his freshman campaign. A bit of a surprise contributor (at least from an outsider’s perspective), but has a big 6’5 frame with room to grow.

RHP Josh Culliver (JR) - 0-0, 1 SV, 0.00/1.00/.000, 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. Started 13 games a year ago with middling results. Moved back to the bullpen, but has only made one appearance so far this year. Not sure what role the team wants him to fill this year, but control has been an issue in the past.

RHP Sam Thoresen (JRJR) - 0-1, 1 SV, 7.71/2.71/.174, 7.0 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 15 BB, 14 K. Another former starter. Has absolutely electric stuff, but - as you can see - can’t find the zone consistently at all (82 BB, 8 WP, 16 HBP in 88.2 career IP). Has made two starts this year, but has yet to appear this weekend.

LHP Ryan Duffy (JR) - 0-0, 10.38/1.85/.250, 4.1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. Not off to as bad of a start as you’d expect (all those hits and runs came in his outing against TCU - hasn’t allowed a hit in 3.2 IP across three appearances. Also the best lefty remaining in the bullpen for this team after Bubba Horton went 4.0 IP yesterday. Almost assuredly will see him tonight.


Quick! Fun Facts!

Eh... not today, man.

Okay, just one: NC State is 5-2 all-time against Minnesota. This will be the fifth game played between the two in Minneapolis.


Prediction

Minnesota has only used four pitchers in two games so far this weekend, but thankfully two of those are their ace starters and another their best reliever - and he threw four innings yesterday. Unfortunately, that means that they have everyone else at their disposal (the fourth pitcher faced only one batter yesterday). I expect this to be a Johnny Wholestaff type of game from the Golden Gophers staff.

State should have all relievers except Sam Highfill (and maybe Evan Justice) at their disposal behind starter Chris Villaman, who is being slowly worked in as the Sunday starter. In his first two starts, Villaman threw 28 and 48 pitches, respectively. Should things go well, I’d expect to see him up that number to around 60 today. Either way, State’s going to need some of their relievers.

Outcome: The Wolfpack come out on top, 8-6, in a game that features a lot of breaks for pitching changes.