Quinlan breaks HR record in U win

Sarah Mitchell

Similar to last week’s 6-5, tenth-inning win at Northern Iowa, the Gophers baseball team relied on the strength of its bullpen on Wednesday.
This time reliever Bob DeWitt stood on the Siebert Field mound, inheriting a two-run deficit and helping Minnesota (25-7 overall, 7-1 in the Big Ten) to a 7-3 victory against the Panthers. The southpaw kept the Northern Iowa (18-15, 4-8 in the Missouri Valley Conference) offense in check until his eighth-inning departure.
“I thought DeWitt was key,” Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes said. “I think both (Gophers coach John Anderson) and my philosophy has been that if a guy is throwing good, let him. DeWitt gave more than expected. He was a bonus.”
With Minnesota’s starting pitching rotation lasting until the late innings on the weekend, the relief corps has been left with little work. DeWitt was the beneficiary of only a few of the available innings, having pitched less than 10 innings before Wednesday.
In his three and two-thirds innings against the Panthers, DeWitt allowed three hits and no runs.
“When you don’t get to play a lot you have to take advantage of the times you do go out there,” DeWitt said. “I was just having fun.”
As DeWitt was relishing his mound time, Minnesota pulled out of its offensive slumber. Junior Matt Scanlon began the Gophers’ three-run fifth inning, singling to score freshman Scott Howard from third. Senior Robb Quinlan capped off Minnesota’s fifth-inning run with a record-breaking home run.
Quinlan rewrote yet another school record with a solo shot over the left center field. His seventh homer of the season, the dinger also broke former Gopher Tom Steinbach’s (1980-83) career home run record of 45.
“I hit it good, but it was more of a line drive, so I didn’t know if it was going to go out or not,” Quinlan said. “And then when I was down at first base I heard the first base coach (Lee Swenson) say it was out. Got a little excited there.”
Quinlan now owns six single season and four career school records. For the senior, however, the team’s success is more important.
“I’m glad it’s out of the way because people talk about it so much,” said Quinlan of the record. “It makes it more fun when the team wins.”
Behind a flawless defense, four more runs in the late innings and solid pitching from closer Frank Wagner — who got Northern Iowa’s Jesse Zimmer to line into a double play with the Panthers threatening in the ninth — the Gophers picked up their ninth consecutive win. Minnesota has won 19 of its last 20.
“We started slow, but we came back,” Quinlan said. “Our pitching has been real good, and we’ve been playing good defense lately, which has kept us in some games. It’s usually just a matter of time until our bats come around.”
The Gophers Big Ten home opener is this weekend. Michigan will come to Siebert Field for a four-game stand against Minnesota.