Ugly loss leaves bad taste in mouth

by Sarah Mitchell

WACO, Texas — Gophers baseball coach John Anderson was initially excited to make the trip to Texas for the NCAA regionals because it was a place where Minnesota had no past.
But after a double-digit loss in a stadium that’s still under construction, the Gophers aren’t looking forward to going back anytime soon.
Top-seeded Baylor ended No. 2 Minnesota’s season in Sunday’s regional championship game, defeating the Gophers 22-6.
“I was a little disappointed that Baylor University decided to drag bunt and steal bases when they were eight and 10 runs ahead,” Anderson said. “It’s disrespectful. It’s disrespectful to college baseball. That shouldn’t be a part of our game.
“I hope I have the opportunity to coach long enough to play Baylor again and return the favor. That’s from my heart.”
With those words, the coaching battle turned into more than just on-field strategy. The Gophers’ veteran coach — Sunday’s game marked the end of Anderson’s 18th year with the team — shook the hands of the Bears coaching staff without uttering a word and saved his statements for the postgame press conference.
With Anderson’s bus leaving Ferrell Field, Baylor coach Steve Smith took his turn with the media and learned of Anderson’s complaint. Smith defended the score, saying a potent offense was the cause and not decisions made by the coaching staff.
“The reason the score was the way the score was (Sunday) had nothing to do with us running the bases. Believe it or not we had 29 base hits and I haven’t found a way to coach them how not to hit,” Smith said. “We cleared our bench, got everybody into the ballgame.
“In no way were we trying to be disrespectful to the University of Minnesota nor the game of baseball.”
That was not all Smith was left to defend. Before he left, Anderson raised the question of the half-finished host facility. Waco was one of 16 cities selected by the NCAA to host a four-team regional, and Baylor’s high national ranking no doubt factored into the decision.
But port-a-potties, orange construction fencing, having only the roof’s frame constructed and gravel walkways — often made slick by the rain — caused Anderson to question the safety of the spectators and players.
“Nothing against the people of Waco and Baylor. I thought they did a tremendous job of hosting this tournament,” Anderson said. “They did everything they could to make it special, but I don’t think the facility itself was what you are used to when you go to the NCAA tournament.”
Smith, on the other hand, said it was the best regional he’d been to. The Bears coach said Anderson was just venting his frustration for not getting to host a regional, among other reasons.
“I’m sure that having been on the other side of a whipping like this, it’s sometimes difficult to swallow your pride and walk out the door and keep your mouth shut,” Smith said. “We had some 4,000 people here, it seemed like to me they were having a great time. All but maybe 25 of them.”
With the loss, the Gophers fans to whom Smith was referring headed out of the stadium and back home, anticipating next season.
For Anderson, the image of the 22-6 loss will always remain.
“The kids worked hard to get to this championship game,” Anderson said. “And to go through all the hurdles to get the opportunity to do this and then have people drag bunting and stealing … I know they don’t respect us.”