Host Gophers knocked out of tourney early

It was just like a dinner party gone wrong. It began with the weather slowing the festivity’s start and ended when then the guests took away all the attention from the host.
Simply put, things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Gophers baseball team this past week.
After winning the regular season title last weekend, Minnesota earned the right to the host Big Ten tournament at Siebert Field beginning Wednesday afternoon.
By Friday evening, the Gophers were forgotten guests of at their own party — back-to-back losses to Purdue and Penn State knocked Minnesota out of the tournament.
The Gophers weren’t overmatched or outplayed by the Boilermakers and Lions. The losses came down to what baseball is all about: timely hitting, strong fielding and a little luck.
“We didn’t make the plays on defense and it cost us,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “We had our chances, but we couldn’t get one more hit.
“The game is about making plays. Purdue and Penn State made more than us on (Friday).”
The Gophers’ luck began to disappear in the seventh inning of the Purdue game. A one-out error by Gophers shortstop Rick Brosseau led to a three-run inning from the Boilermakers, giving Purdue a lead they wouldn’t lose in a 6-1 win.
Minnesota was held to just four hits by Purdue’s David Gassner in the loss.
The bad luck continued into the Penn State game, where the Gophers once again couldn’t catch a break.
Minnesota left 12 runners on base — eight in the final three innings — and couldn’t bust through to put the runs on the board. The Lions defense was able to track down just about every ball the Gophers put in play.
“We came in with the goal of winning the tournament,” senior centerfielder Mike Arlt said. “We didn’t come up with the timely hits and left too many guys on base.
“They made the plays. The teams that make the plays are going to win.”
Gophers starting pitcher Chadd Clarey held the Lions to just one hit through five innings before caving in, something Penn State’s Dan Goebeler didn’t do.
He held the Gophers in check for six-plus innings, giving up only two runs, which allowed his team to grab a lead and then hold onto it — with help from the field of course.
“(Goebeler) put us in a position to win, and we played errorless ball, which also helped,” Lions coach Joe Hindelang said. “We made a couple of great catches in the outfield that hurt Minnesota.”
All the bad luck the Gophers had on Friday was perhaps foreshadowed by Wednesday’s events. On-and-off rain pushed the Gophers’ opening game with Northwestern back a day to Thursday afternoon.
An 8-4 win over the Wildcats got Minnesota off to a good start, but the previous day’s rain forced the Gophers into playing a pair of games on Friday which led to the end for Minnesota.
The Gophers now turn their attention to the NCAA regional this Friday. Once again Minnesota will be the host.
Only this time, the Gophers are hoping the party doesn’t get crashed, and their luck proves better at Siebert Field.
“The last couple of weeks we have had our share of things go against us,” Anderson said. “Next week, when we go into the NCAA’s, hopefully some balls will fall for us and things will go our way.”

Champagne in Champaign
Illinois had reason to celebrate when it got back to campus. A 5-3 win over Penn State on Sunday afternoon, gave the Illini their first Big Ten title since 1990.
The win by Illinois was the fifth straight for a non-host team. The last time a host won the tourney was in 1995, when Ohio State captured the crown.

John R. Carter covers baseball and welcomes comments at [email protected].