Gophers go 1-2 to take third place at Metrodome

A misplay in center field signaled the beginning of bad things for Minnesota.

Matt Perkins

If nothing else, the Metrodome has the unique ability to affect the outcome of a baseball game.

On Saturday, as the Gophers hosted No. 5 South Carolina in the 21st annual Dairy Queen Classic, the Dome made its presence known.

A momentum-changing mishap in center field in the top half of the second inning proved fatal for the Gophers, as they went on to lose that game 13-6 and Sunday’s game 15-2 to Pepperdine to finish 1-2 for the tournament.

Pepperdine won the tournament by sweeping the competition and scoring 31 runs in the process.

The Gophers (1-5) picked up their first win of the season Friday in a 7-0 shutout win over New Orleans, but the blowout losses were disappointing.

And they began with the mishap in center.

“Those types of things happen (in the Dome),” coach John Anderson said. “You simply can’t let them become bigger mistakes.”

After the Gophers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, the Gamecocks caught a lucky break high up in the rafters.

With the score 3-1 and one out in the top of the second, South Carolina’s Neil Giesler hit a routine pop fly to straightaway center that got lost in the Teflon.

Shrugging his arms to signal that he lost the ball, center fielder Tony Leseman turned to see left fielder Luke MacLean just miss making a sliding grab. The play scored one run, and Giesler advanced to third on the play, only to score later on a bunt single to tie the game 3-3.

Senior pitcher Josh Krogman said he had to come to terms with the unfriendly conditions of the Dome but doesn’t expect to see Saturday’s result again.

“When Tony is out there, he makes that play 99 times out of 100,” Krogman said. “It’s one of those things that the Dome presents that no other place does, and you just have to try to deal with it.”

Anderson said he sensed a shift in the game right away.

“The game was still in balance and it gave them some momentum,” he said. “Then, ever since that play, it looked like we were chasing them and their momentum.”

The Gamecocks went on to score 10 more runs before the Gophers added three in the final two innings.

On Sunday, Leseman misjudged another ball and third baseman David Hrncirik had a ball hit a lip and bounce over his head. The Gophers committed five errors on the weekend, not including Saturday and Sunday’s Dome-disaster errors that were all ruled hits.

After making a couple mistakes, Leseman said, he tried to stay level-headed about improving personal and team performances.

“There still isn’t any cause for concern,” Leseman said. “We’re not about to hit the panic button, yet.”