The departure of pitcher Brian Glowicki, who ran out of eligibility last year and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs, left the Gophers with a void to fill at closer.
Glowicki's 16 saves was a record number in a season for Minnesota. The Gophers may have found a new closer for this season — freshman Max Meyer.
Meyer, who was drafted by the Minnesota Twins last year in the 34th round, has the most saves with five in nine of his appearances on the mound. He often comes in for the final innings. He has a 3.14 ERA on 14.1 innings pitched.
"That's what we saw in high school, that's why we like him," head coach John Anderson said. "Thought he had great presence on the mound, confident. He obviously has the stuff to go with it."
Meyer started off the season playing pitcher and designated hitter spot at times for the Gophers. Recently, however, his role as a closing pitcher has been solidified as he comes in to make save after save for the team.
"Jack Wassel has picked it up [at DH] and given us some quality at bats," Anderson said. "We really need [Meyer] on the mound and don't really need his bat right now, we need his arm."
Anderson said that though Meyer — who has a .172 batting average on 29 at bats — has been needed more at pitcher lately, he will have more opportunities at the plate in the future.
"He'll still have some at bats, we'll still work him in there, but [Wassel's] hot right now, we are going to ride [Wassel] and see what happens with our team here as we go forward," Anderson said.
Meyer started infield in high school when he wasn't on the mound. His high school coach at Woodbury high school, Kevin McDermott, said Meyer wasn't always known as the best pitcher, but figured it out as he became an upperclassman.
"His junior year, he really stepped up and became more like the guy we see today," McDermott said. "His velocity really jumped up. He became our no-doubt, No. 1 arm and our starting shortstop on the days where he wasn't on the mound."
Meyer, who McDermott said he thought was one of the best short stops in the state and started at short stop in high school, has not played infield this year as the Gophers have returned every infield starter from last season.
McDermott, who has coached at the college level, said Meyer didn't put himself up on a pedestal, though he was the first ever to be drafted into the MLB out of Woodbury High School.
"Stay grounded and don't settle," McDermott said as advice to Meyer. "I think at the end of this he wants to be a professional baseball player. I think he can do it, he's just got to keep working hard every day, stay humble and keep grinding."