The Gophers baseball team’s annual Southern trip got off to a familiar poor start this weekend, but it was not without its encouraging signs.
Minnesota dropped both of its games in the Coca Cola Classic in Mobile, Ala., its first two of the season. But Gophers coach John Anderson said there’s no reason this trip will end up like the previous three during which the Gophers went a combined 3-17.
“We still have five games to go on this trip,” Anderson said. “I don’t want to draw any conclusions. There’s no reason we can’t win the last five.”
Anderson’s confidence stemmed from the strong pitching from Justin Pederson and Mike Diebolt. Pederson threw seven strong innings Saturday in a 5-2 loss to South Alabama, and Diebolt allowed no earned runs in eight innings in Sunday’s 3-2, 10-inning loss to Southern Mississippi.
For the most part the Gophers played well in the field. But it was the few plays they didn’t make that cost them. On Saturday, sophomore Craig Selander misplayed a line drive in right field that ignited a three-run sixth inning.
Sunday against Southern Mississippi, a botched pick-off play and a misplayed grounder by Minnesota led to two unearned runs. In addition, Eric Welter popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt late in the game. Eagles pinch-hitter Jeremy Albritton eventually got the game-winning RBI single in the top of the 10th off Gophers pitcher Tony Felling.
The only facet of the game Anderson was disappointed in this weekend was the hitting. The Gophers struck out 15 times against South Alabama’s top three pitchers. That’s the same number they had in hits in both games. Five of those were extra-base hits, including a solo home run by designated hitter Phil McDermott on Sunday.
Aside from a few mistakes, Pederson pitched well on Saturday. Diebolt was even better on Sunday. The senior left-hander, expected to be the No. 2 starter for the Gophers this year, allowed just four hits and struck out eight on Sunday. He left the game after he reached his maximum pitch count of 120.
“The bad thing about the two games was that we got good pitching and still lost,” Anderson said.
A scheduled game with South Alabama on Friday was rained out and will be made up today. The Gophers’ also have a three-game series with Southern Mississippi starting Friday, so the Gophers will have a chance to show the mistakes made in the first two games were nothing more than the ones typical of the early season.
“We played well for the most part,” Anderson said. “From what I’ve seen of the teams down here, if we just eliminate a few mistakes we can do very well.”
SATURDAY’S SUMMARYGophers 020 000 000 — 2 10 0South Ala. 100 003 01X — 5 11 1Pederson, Felling (8) and Guse; Norton, Nakamura (6), Fisher (8) and Wiley. W — Nakamura, 2-1. L — Pederson, 0-1. Sv — Fischer (3).
SUNDAY’S SUMMARYS. Miss. 001 000 100 1 — 3 8 0Gophers 000 200 000 0 — 2 5 2Adams, Schemmel (5), Parker (7) and Whitehead; Diebolt, Felling (9) and Guse. W — Parker, 1-0. L — Felling, 0-1. HR — Gophers, McDermott (1).
Gophers hitting statistics AB R H RBIQuinlan 9 0 0 0
Welter 8 0 2 0
Guse 7 0 2 0
McDermott 7 2 1 1
Selander 8 2 3 1
Griffin 7 0 3 1
Keeney 9 0 2 0
Stein 7 0 1 0
Birk 7 0 1 0