Home run frenzy fuels Gophers’ wins

Sarah Mitchell

Minnesota’s baseball program might face a deficit after this weekend’s series against Indiana at Siebert Field.
It could be a couple of seasons before the players see luxuries such as new uniforms, while the program works on replacing the baseballs it lost during the four-game series.
The series fits the slug-fest profile. It turned into a competition to see which team could take the ball deep more often, as a total of 12 home runs went over Siebert’s walls. Just as the Gophers were victorious in winning the series three games to one, they also won the home run derby nine to three.
In Minnesota’s only other home series at Siebert Field, in which the team swept Iowa the first weekend of April, only five home runs were hit. But its cozy dimensions (380 feet to dead center) have made it a homer haven in past years.
“It’s definitely a collegiate home run hitting ball park,” Gophers right fielder Craig Selander said.
One possible explanation for the added outburst this weekend could be the wind, which was continuously blowing the flags out to right field. However, batters such as Robb Quinlan, who won the individual home run hitting title with four on the series, defied this force on Saturday, taking the ball well over the left field wall.
Had he hit the ball over the right field wall, the ball might have landed in Stadium Village.
“The wind didn’t really help us at all this weekend,” center fielder Mike Arlt said. “We should’ve had a lot more, considering the wind.”
The consensus seems to be that the team was just seeing better pitches.
“I think we have just been picking out better pitches and being more patient,” Arlt said. “You look for pitches to drive, and the guys who hit the home runs did a really good job of finding those pitches.”
Arlt’s theory could definitely be true. No home runs were hit on Friday night, although it was just as windy as the other games.
“The first game we hit a lot of fastballs, so their reaction to that, they started to throw a lot more off speed stuff thinking they could take control of it,” right fielder Craig Selander said. “They started throwing more off-speed stuff and they got behind in the count.”
Quinlan, whose season home run count now totals 13, has been dangerous ever since moving to the lead-off position. The first baseman was such a burden on Indiana’s staff that the Hoosiers chose to walk him at times.
The trio of Quinlan, Selander and Mark Groebner dominated the dinger duel. They combined to take eight balls deep, and most of their home runs came at crucial times during the series.
Quinlan led the team off with a long ball during game one of Saturday’s doubleheader. The team got on the board early, something it had been struggling to do, and never looked back.
Groebner hit a ball over the right field wall at perhaps the most critical time of the series. The senior came through during the seventh inning of Saturday’s game two to tie the score and give the Gophers new life. Minnesota would not need extra innings, as Jeremy Beaulieu hit a game winning single later that game.
Head coach John Anderson was not pleased with his pitching staff following the series end, but he was happy to see his offense pick up the slack. Considering the wins, he won’t even mind picking up the tab for the new baseballs.
“It’s not easy to hit a baseball,” Anderson said. “I thought those guys did a good job of making them pitch to them, and forcing them to throw a ball in their hitting zone.”