Freshman fuels Gophers romp

Sarah Mitchell

The Gophers pitching staff tends to be the biggest beneficiary of the baseball team’s midweek schedule.
With limited innings available during the weekends, several hurlers are given mound time against the nonconference opponents. On Wednesday, the Gophers coaching staff dug a little deeper into its bullpen — and struck it rich.
In making his collegiate pitching debut, freshman Mike Kobow also picked up his first career start. Gophers faithfuls at Siebert Field saw the right-hander lead Minnesota (28-9 overall, 9-3 in the Big Ten) to a 6-0 win over Minnesota State-Mankato (18-9-2).
“They told me (Tuesday) in practice. I got really excited for the first five minutes, and then it kind of wore off for a while,” Kobow said. “Then I’d say about 8 o’clock (Tuesday) night I was ready to pitch. I had to settle myself down, because the game didn’t start for another 18 hours.”
The down time must have had a calming effect. Kobow retired the first hitter he faced (Mankato’s Eric Lonnquist grounded out to second) and remained effective for the rest his four-inning stint.
The right-hander allowed four hits while striking out three and walking only one. Kobow’s control provided the Gophers coaching staff with a window to the program’s future.
“He hit 90 (miles per hour) and was throwing 87, 88 consistently,” Gophers assistant coach Rob Fornasiere said. “It was really encouraging.”
While Kobow contained the Mavericks offense, the Gophers chipped away at Mankato’s bullpen.
Starting pitcher Nick Dolan shut out Minnesota until the bottom of the third inning. But after leading off the inning with a double, catcher Josh Holthaus advanced to third when freshman Jason Kennedy grounded out to shortstop. Freshman Scott Howard singled to left field and picked up the RBI.
Minnesota tallied three more runs that inning, then added runs in each of the next two innings, both off homers. Sophomore Rick Brosseau led-off the fourth with a dinger over the right field wall while current Big Ten player of the week Matt Scanlon went yard in the fifth.
By game’s end, the Gophers walked away with two firsts — a shutout and a win for Kobow.
“We played a clean game. We didn’t make any errors, and we’re able to get a lot of people into the game,” Fornasiere said. “It’s one of those games that you walk away from feeling happy.”
Minnesota will hit the road this weekend for the final time during the Big Ten regular season. The Gophers have a four-game series at Indiana.