Baseball team drops game to No. 2 UCLA, 13-5

Tim Klobuchar

For the first three innings at least, the Gophers and No. 2 UCLA were engaged in an unlikely pitching duel Sunday at the Metrodome.
Gophers senior left-hander Mike Diebolt was silencing the bats of the Bruins, who had hit 52 home runs in their first 22 games this year, and both teams were scoreless.
But over the next three innings, the Bruins probably changed the shape of the ball as much as the shape of the game. Their powerful lineup started to pound out extra-base hits as they had all season, denting walls and outfield seats. UCLA scored nine runs in the middle third of the game, and went on to beat Minnesota 13-5 in the Hormel Foods Baseball Classic.
UCLA (20-2-1) won the tournament with a 3-0 record, while the Gophers (2-8) finished 1-2.
“My pitching was there,” said Diebolt, “but with a team that good, you can’t make any mistakes because every one hurts.”
Diebolt’s biggest mistake was a 3-2 fastball to Nick Theodorou with the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Theodorou deposited the pitch into the left-center field bleachers for a grand slam, and the Bruins went up 4-0.
Theodorou knocked in two more runs in the fifth with a bloop double, and the rout was on. Jon Heinrichs hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and Troy Glaus, the starting third baseman on the U.S. Olympic team this summer, blasted another grand slam in the eighth.
Diebolt came into the game with a 0.56 earned run average in two starts, and looked every bit that good through the first three innings, giving up one hit and striking out five. He left with an ERA of 3.32 and admiration for the Bruins hitters.
“I’ve never a seen a lineup better than theirs,” Diebolt said.
UCLA might have too much talent to give the Gophers, who have only played 10 games as compared to 23 for the Bruins, an accurate indicator of how good they are. In their other two games this weekend, though, Minnesota showed both how strong and how weak it can be.
In their opener against Nebraska on Friday night, the Gophers proved the former. They fell behind 5-0 early, then scored three runs in the fifth and six in the sixth on their way to an 11-6 victory. Mark Groebner hit a pinch-hit single for the go-ahead run in the sixth.
Just as impressive as the comeback was the performance of Ted Zrust, who pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings in relief of starter Brad Pautz. Zrust, who was suspended along with fellow relievers Kelly Werner and Adam Williams during the Gophers’ season-opening road trip for violations of team rules, said the suspension actually might have helped him.
“It made me more hungry and more determined to pitch well,” he said.
Senior Bob Keeney said that type of rally might not have been possible last season, and that the Nebraska game could be a sign of things to come.
“If this happened last year, we probably would have regressed,” Keeney said. “We would have gone into a shell, and some guys would try to get a few hits to save their personal stats. But even when we were down 5-0 tonight, absolutely no one was down. We knew we could do it.”
Keeney’s comments made what happened Saturday against Washington (4-7-1) harder to fathom. The Gophers cloned their poor start of the previous day, but looked much more sheepish, failing to mount a comeback.
Minnesota ace Justin Pederson gave up six earned runs in 5 1/3-innings, while Jake Kringen (12.66 ERA) gave the Gophers just five hits and a run in seven innings.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” first baseman Ben Griffin said. “We’ll kick the hell out of someone one night, then get our (butts) kicked the next night. We’re like a chameleon. It’s frustrating.”
Keeney’s and Griffin’s comments illustrated the two extremes of the Gophers’ weekend. The middle ground was perhaps best stated by senior second baseman Eric Welter.
“It’s frustrating to only win one out of three games,” he said after Sunday’s game. “But we won’t let the first 10 games dictate how we play the rest of the season.”
Notes: Sophomore Robb Quinlan was hitting 1-for-26 (.038) on the season before hitting a 400-foot-plus home run to right-center in the seventh inning Sunday.
Sophomore Craig Selander had his eight-game hitting streak snapped Sunday, drawing a walk in his only plate appearance. He hit a home run, his first of the season, on Friday against Nebraska.

SUNDAY’S SUMMARY
UCLA 000 423 040 — 13 15 2
Gophers 000 011 102 — 5 13 1
Parque, Klein (9) and Cloud, Rogers; Diebolt, Felling (6), Wagner (9) and Guse. W — Parque, 5-0. L — Diebolt, 0-2. HRs — UCLA, Heinrichs (10), Glaus (12), Theodorou (5); Min, Quinlan (1). T — 3:16. A — 3,679.

Weekend hitting statistics (3 games)
AB R H RBI
Griffin 13 1 6 2
Guse 10 2 4 2
Welter 13 1 4 3
McDermott 11 2 3 1
Groebner 7 1 3 1
Stein 10 1 2 1
Selander 3 3 2 1
Keeney 11 3 2 1
Scanlon 2 1 1 0
Arlt 7 0 1 0
Quinlan 7 1 1 2
Birk 5 1 0 1
Brosseau 1 0 0 0