The sore arms of starting pitchers Ben Birk and Dan McGrath seem to be having a direct effect on the Gophers baseball team’s pre-conference record. With reliever Frank Wagner assuming the role of starter, Minnesota (4-3) dropped its third game of the season on Wednesday, a 9-5 loss at 12th-ranked Auburn.
While the Gophers starting rotation temporarily lacks in depth, the Tigers top hurlers have no shortcomings. Pre-season All-American Brent Schoening (4-0) reigned on the mound, striking out a career-high 10 hitters, while allowing three earned runs off eight hits during six and one-third innings of work.
Minnesota scored first off the right-hander on a RBI single off the bat of center fielder Mike Arlt in the top of the fourth. Auburn answered, however, tallying three runs on two hits and four walks in the bottom of the fourth.
Minnesota came back to tie the score at three in the fifth. First baseman Robb Quinlan sent a two-run homer over the right field wall.
Down again, the Tigers responded during their fifth inning at-bats, this time building an insurmountable lead. A lead off homer by third baseman Todd Faulkner provided the Auburn offense with some momentum. Faulkner’s team padded its one-run advantage, adding three more runs in the fifth.
Auburn eventually added two more runs to the scoreboard. Catcher Casey Dunn, who finished the game 4-for-5 at the plate, singled to center, allowing Faulkner to score from second and make the score 8-3. In the same inning, Auburn’s Dominic Rich received a free ride with the bases loaded.
Wagner (1-1) took the loss for the Gophers. The left-hander surrendered six runs and five hits while walking four.
The Gophers finish out their spring trip this weekend, with a three game stand in the Troy State Classic in Montgomery, Ala. Minnesota opens the tournament Friday with a game against Troy State before facing Kentucky on Saturday and Ohio State on Sunday.