For a brief period of time, the Gophers were beating the Minnesota Twins.
Of course, the Twins had not come up to bat yet.
Redshirt senior shortstop Michael Handel’s RBI single in the top of the first inning scored the Gophers’ only run of the game. It was the team’s only hit in a 3-1 exhibition loss in Fort Myers, Fla.
The game was never about winning for the Gophers — it was all about the experience.
Though former Minnesota shortstop Paul Molitor was named an All-American for the second time in his career in 1977, he wasn’t voted the most valuable player on the Gophers that year.
That honor went to John Anderson — Minnesota’s current head coach.
And now, Anderson and the Twins’ new manager will meet again on the field, coming together for an exhibition game between the Twins and Gophers on Wednesday.
Redshirt senior catcher Matt Halloran stepped to the plate in the seventh inning Friday with the bases loaded, his team locked in a scoreless draw.
The Gophers were searching for their first victory of the season after a 0-7 start against two ranked opponents and staring at their best opportunity of the night.
And after Florida Gulf Coast pitcher Mike Murray delivered, Halloran got his bat on the ball.
A base-clearing single gave the Gophers the cushion they would need in their first victory of the season.
Last season, the Gophers couldn’t seem to get any luck behind the plate.
Redshirt senior catcher Matt Halloran, who’s expected to be the team’s regular backstop, only caught one game because of an arm injury.
As a result, Austin Athmann was put into the lineup as a freshman. But injuries took him out for large stretches, too.
Now, both are back to form a one-two punch behind home plate.
Minnesota lost all four games in its series against Texas over the weekend, dropping to 0-7 on the season.
And the weekend before wasn’t any better.
The Gophers were outscored 50-7 in their two series against two of the ranked teams from the Lone Star State, making for the program’s worst start since 2002 when Minnesota also opened 0-7.
“We’re definitely disappointed, but we’re not going to get down on ourselves,” sophomore Matt Fiedler said. “We know that these are the top teams in the country.”
When the Gophers and Longhorns swap lineup cards by home plate this weekend in Austin, Texas, two coaches with over 3,000 combined college wins will shake hands.
Minnesota head coach John Anderson and Texas head coach Augie Garrido have spent almost 80 combined years roaming college dugouts, and this weekend, the two skippers will reunite on the field again.
“It’s a great challenge,” Anderson said. “It’s fun to be able to coach against someone who’s obviously had the success he’s had.”
In their opening series, it took three days for the Gophers to start getting around the bases.
Unfortunately for the Gophers, even a late rally to tie the game on Sunday wasn’t enough for them to stave off a sweep.
The team’s offense struggled in 9-1 and 5-0 losses to the Cougars on Friday and Saturday. The game was closer until the final inning on Sunday, but the Gophers still lost 5-4.
With nine Big Ten championships under his belt, Minnesota head coach John Anderson knows how to win at the college level.
And he says the winning formula isn’t all that complicated.
“I don’t think you can have a championship team or a real competitive team unless you can pitch,” Anderson said. “It starts on the mound.”
A trio of familiar faces will start on the mound for opening weekend — ones who combined for nearly 187 innings pitched with the team last year.
A 21-day hospital visit for the return of acute myeloid leukemia in December had pitching coach Todd Oakes concerned about more than just baseball at practice last Tuesday.
He addressed the team for the first time since his hospital visit, thanking the staff and players for their endless support throughout his battle with AML.
“The doctors and my family were worried whether I’d ever walk out of the hospital room,” Oakes said.
With a donor lymphocyte infusion from his brother, Oakes’ leukemia is now in remission for the second time.
Growing up, Lance Thonvold often played catch in his backyard with his father.
The ball would zip back and forth, and so too would the chatter and offhanded conjectures of what it would be like to play baseball in the Cape Cod Baseball League.
“We always talked about how it’d be really cool if I had the chance to play in the Cape Cod league,” he said.
This summer, the rising Gophers junior right-hander is fulfilling the dream.