Gophers baseball opens ’99 with ninth-inning grand slam

by David La

One last swing of a Gophers bat left yet another mark in the loss column for St. Cloud State.
Gophers pinch hitter Josh Holthaus came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and the bases loaded, and put the Huskies about 352 feet short of their first win over Minnesota since 1989.
“With two strikes, I was just thinking, ‘Try to put the ball in play somewhere,'” Holthaus said. “And what do you know, I did.”
Holthaus’ grand slam gave the Gophers a 10-8 win, the latest in a series that has seen two big come-from-behind wins by Minnesota in the last two games.
Last season, the Gophers vaporized a 10-1 deficit after five innings and won 14-10.
But after the top of the ninth on Sunday at the Metrodome, it seemed the Huskies we’re poised to vindicate themselves from going 0-for the 90s. St. Cloud State took advantage of two wild pitches, two bases-loaded walks and five hits to take an 8-5 lead.
During the wild ninth, the Gophers used a pair of sophomore hurlers in hopes of thwarting the Huskies’ surge in momentum.
Andy Persby — who also plays quarterback for the Minnesota football team — and Jason Shupe were both sent into the game facing a bases-loaded, one-out situation. Coach John Anderson said the decision to insert the inexperienced sophomores was worth the risk.
“I told the team today that we going to experiment, and do some on-the-job training,” Anderson said. “With that is going to come some painful moments early in the year.”
While Holthaus provided a quick cure for the pain on Sunday, Anderson’s training program does not include a good medical plan. Minnesota was without the services of starting pitchers Ben Birk and Dan McGrath, both of whom are injured.
“Those two guys being out is going to give opportunities for us to pitch some guys who don’t have a lot of experience,” Anderson said.
While injuries decimated the pitching staff’s productivity, the Gophers offense inexplicably sputtered for most the game.
After opening the game with a pair of two-run innings, Minnesota did not cross the plate again until sophomore Rick Brosseau hit a solo homerun in the fifth. Two batters later, an eerie omen foreshadowed a three-inning hitting slump.
Matt Scanlon, who finished the game with three hits and three RBIs, blasted a line drive off of the Budweiser/Coca-Cola sign in the foul territory of right field. The sign went dark, commencing the Gophers power outage.
By the game’s end, however, power had been restored, along with Minnesota’s decade long mastery of St. Cloud State.
Minnesota comes into this season surrounded by a bit of buzz, returning 15 of 18 letter-winners that led the Gophers to a school record 45 wins, a Big Ten Tournament title and an NCAA bid.
“We do have high expectations, but we can’t let that get to us”, Holthaus said.
On Sunday night, at least, nothing got to Holthaus at the plate in the ninth.