Gophers’ mid-week games torment their fans

As I sat with the 454 diehards at the Gophers-St. Cloud State baseball game Tuesday night, my mind casually wandered from what was happening on the field to a Hootie and the Blowfish song.
As alarming as this was for me, normally a diehard baseball fan and hardly a bandwagon Hootie lover, the lyrics that came to mind summed up the otherwise pleasant spring evening very well.
“Time … why do you punish me?”
Time smacked me around about as hard as the Gophers hitters battered the Huskies pitching staff. Minnesota scored in every inning but the fourth. Final score: Gophers 19, Huskies 6.
Last week the Gophers defeated the notorious baseball powerhouse South Dakota, 17-6. Three weeks ago, Concordia College fell to Minnesota in a 12-1 nail-biter.
I like baseball as much as the next person. Actually, I might like it more than the next person and another 99 percent of the population.
But watching a Division I team, which has consistently placed high in the Big Ten, beat up on Division II and Division III schools is not entertaining. In fact, it is borderline ridiculous.
Why do the Gophers schedule these games? Coach John Anderson says the main purpose is to give reserve position players and seldom-used pitchers a chance to play. Minnesota certainly did that last night, using four pitchers and 16 position players.
Hey, 16 players and four pitchers — that sounds like the perfect amount for an intrasquad game. Why not let the players duke it out amongst themselves and then schedule some Division I opponents during the middle of the week?
It’s true that some weaker clubs have given the Gophers trouble this season. St. Thomas lost by one run and Mankato State beat Minnesota by five.
This brings me to another point: The Gophers gain nothing if they win but lose big-time if they don’t.
Minnesota isn’t in a position this year to gain an at-large NCAA regional tournament bid. If it was, however, it is doubtful the selection committee would turn cartwheels if the Gophers beat Mankato State by five runs. A five-run loss is a different story.
But regardless of the tournament implications, the games still don’t make sense. If the Gophers beat every weak team by 10 runs, the games would still be yawners.
Tuesday night marked the Huskies’ last game of the season. They are not going to the North Central Conference playoffs. They had absolutely no reason to play.
It showed.
I’m not sure how many mental and physical miscues there were on Tuesday night. If someone guessed 10, I’d probably say they were going too easy on the teams.
As the boots, bobbles and baserunning gaffes mounted, I grew more agitated and more weary. Hoping to ease my pain, I ventured down to the concession stand to buy a $1.75 pretzel and a 50-cent cup of warm cheese dip.
Perhaps that was the highlight of the evening. There weren’t any highlights on the field, unless you hang with the “Faces of Death” crowd and like mass carnage.
In the seventh inning, eight consecutive Gophers hitters reached base. When the sixth one crossed the plate, making the score 16-6, the thought of a 10-run rule came to mind.
Nope. Even when a team like St. Cloud has nothing to play for, college baseball doesn’t include the mercy rule.
The game eventually crawled into the ninth inning. I realized that the Gophers, the home team, would not have to bat again because of their commanding lead. I take back the part about the pretzel — going home three outs early was the best thing that happened to me at Siebert Field.
The Gophers play St. Olaf tonight, another illustrious “tune-up” for the team’s big showdown with conference rival Iowa this weekend. Minnesota has won its last four meetings with St. Olaf by a combined score of 35-11. If St. Cloud State inspired thoughts about Hootie and the Blowfish, I shudder to think what St. Olaf will conjure up.
Or maybe it will be the merciful voice of reason telling the Gophers to stop tormenting their audiences with lopsided, three-hour games.