Outfielder Alex Boxwell's senior season was getting off to a good start. He had a .357 average through the first eight games, with seven RBI for Minnesota.
In that eighth game against North Dakota State, Boxwell ran down a shallow fly ball hit to center field and made a diving play. He recorded the out, but hurt his wrist in the process and exited the game.
"It's been a bit of an adjustment coming back from the wrist injury," Boxwell said. "I kind of got to do things a little differently, manage the amount of swings I take before the game and just make sure I'm feeling good and do a solid tape job on it."
Boxwell missed nine games recovering. However, he is back on the field now and though his batting average has slipped with the wrist problem to a .270, he has stayed perfect in the outfield. He is the only regular starter to not have made an error so far for the Gophers (23-10, 7-1 Big Ten).
He has one error in 137 games with the Gophers in his career.
"There's a lot of things he does that don't show up in the hitting column," head coach John Anderson said. "I think sometimes he gets too focused on his batting average and doesn't realize all the ways he can help this team win."
Pitcher Nick Lackney said he feels more confident on the mound with Boxwell patrolling the outfield.
"It takes a lot of stress off of us knowing our guys can just get to basically anything out there," Lackney said. "It's a nice thing to have in the back of your mind when you're up there on the mound."
In his last year of eligibility, Boxwell has had to struggle with not only the injury, but also with historic weather conditions that have not allowed the team to play at Minnesota's home ball park, Siebert Field, this year.
"It's frustrating," infielder Micah Coffey said. "That's our home field, and that's the place where we've put in a lot of time and energy."
Boxwell, who batted a .194 his freshman year, led the team in home runs last season with six and tallied a .253 batting average.
Toby Hanson, a usual starting outfielder, has been out with a wrist injury, too. He had surgery and has been recovering since the game against Nebraska on March 25. Hanson led the team with 57 RBIs last year, and his absence has meant other outfielders have needed to fill the void.
"Hopefully, we get him back as soon as possible," Boxwell said. "He's one of the better hitters in the country, in my opinion."
Boxwell knows he has a limited number of games left in his college career. But on top of that, Boxwell said the injury has given him a greater appreciation for the game — he remembers what it is like to be watching instead of playing.
"Definitely gives you a better perspective on your health and just the reason why you're playing the game," Boxwell said. "You love it, competing and being with some of your friends out there, doing what you can to win some ball games."
Boxwell and the Gophers are scheduled for their home opening series against the Hawkeyes (22-11, 6-4 Big Ten) this weekend, but will open the first two games at Target Field on Friday and Saturday. The Gophers were scheduled to play their home opener on April 6, but weather postponed it.