Quinlan wins national award for scorching home run streak

Sarah Mitchell

Gophers first baseman Robb Quinlan deserved more than Big Ten Player of the Week for his efforts this past week.
And Quinlan, who won Big Ten honors two weeks ago, got the extra recognition on Monday, as he was named National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball Magazine.
Quinlan hit .522 with seven homers and 13 RBIs this week. The junior now leads the team in home runs with 23, as right fielder Craig Selander suffered a bit of a slump during the Northwestern series this past weekend, taking only two balls over the fence.
Selander, whose season home run count totals 21, broke Jerry Kindall’s single-season home run mark last weekend against Michigan State but has now surrendered the record to Quinlan.
Quinlan hit four dingers against the Northwestern pitching staff, three on Friday alone. The team-leading .404 hitter not only leads the Big Ten in home runs, but also in runs scored (82), hits (86), slugging percentage (.817), total bases (174) and homers per game (.418).
Return to the tourney
Friday night’s 14-0 win over Northwestern secured Minnesota’s spot in the Big Ten tournament for the first time in two years.
By taking three of four games during the series, Minnesota (42-13 overall, 19-9 in the Big Ten) finished with the second-highest winning percentage in the conference, earning itself a second seed in the four-team conference tournament this weekend in Champaign, Ill.
Minnesota’s first game of the double elimination tournament is at noon Thursday at Illinois Field. The team plays third-seeded Ohio State and could either face No. 1 Illinois or No. 4 Penn State on Friday, depending upon the outcomes of both games.
Gophers hitters and pitchers are peaking at the right time. The team is batting .345 while the pitching staff has a accumulated a 4.27 ERA.
“We are pitching and playing defense and swinging the bats pretty well,” head coach John Anderson said. “We need all three things when we get into the post season to keep advancing. I like where we are. We are not struggling coming into the playoffs.”
Giving the bus some love
The Gophers took a different mode of transportation this past weekend to reach Evanston, Ill. While most frequent travelers find airplanes the most convenient and efficient way to go, some Gophers players prefer taking a more scenic route.
Instead of dealing with the hassle of ticket check-ins and baggage claims, Minnesota players stowed their equipment bags in compartments found on the underside of a chartered bus.
The trip lasted seven hours, but the Gophers had lots of scenery to keep them occupied. Traveling through three states — Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois — some of the team’s members were not as engrossed with the landscape and instead chose to gaze at movies on the way down.
Infielder Mark Devore supported ground transportation. The sophomore said riding a bus allows more time for studying and sleeping because it lacks in the constant commotion of moving from the check-in counter to the gate, to the plane, to the baggage claim and finally to the bus that shuttles the team to its final destination.
McGrath: Australian for spear
When pitcher Dan McGrath is on the mound, it is unusual for him to get any visits during the game, especially from pitching coach Mike Dee.
But the Australian with a 9-2 record had an unwelcome guest during game two of the Northwestern series, and it was someone much worse than the pitching coach: the trainer.
A hard hit ball nailed McGrath in the thigh. Sporting a bruise after the game, McGrath said being speared by the ball caused more psychological damage than it did physical.
“It’s nothing,” McGrath said. “It’s just the reaction that you think, ‘Oh my God. This ball is traveling at me.’ And there is nothing you can do.”
But the Australia native would rather take the ball off his thigh than what he witnessed in a game in his homeland. A player there got hit in the head with a ball traveling 100 mph and was knocked out of baseball for a year.
“This kid didn’t know what happened,” McGrath said, “so it’s kind of scary.”
Around The Horn
ù Pitcher Ben Birk is the probable starter for Thursday’s game. The southpaw’s record stands at 7-1 after throwing a two-hitter against Northwestern on Friday. Birk has a 2.16 ERA, but more importantly has a 0.34 ERA in Big Ten games.