U baseball gets by alumni team, 9-7

Sarah Mitchell

The rivalry between young and old was revisited at the Metrodome on Monday, as the Gophers baseball team opened its season against a squad of Minnesota alumni.
And for only the second time in the eight-year history of the series, Minnesota won the Galyan’s Pro-Alumni game, defeating a team of former Gophers standouts by a score of 9-7.
Despite this feat, Gophers coach John Anderson said he doesn’t read too much into the win.
“I don’t think you can use this game as an indicator of where you are at or where you are going,” Anderson said. “For a lot of these guys it was their first time hitting or their first time throwing a pitch. It was a good way to get the nerves out of their system.”
Freshman Scott Howard was redshirted for Minnesota last season and made the transition from infield to outfield during the fall. With both corner outfielders gone from last season’s team, Anderson recognized Howard’s ability at the plate and gave him a shot at the starting role.
With the Gophers holding a one-run advantage in the bottom of the second inning, Howard doubled to left and drove in a run. In his first collegiate baseball game, Howard finished 1-for-3 with an RBI, a run and a walk.
“I was a little nervous,” Howard said. “Taking balls of the bat has been the biggest transition. The Metrodome is definitely not the greatest place to learn this.”
The Gophers’ early 3-1 lead would not last long. With Gophers starter Brad Pautz off the mound, the veteran team shelled reliever Brandon Kitzerow for five runs on six hits in the fifth inning.
But the Gophers recaptured the lead with an explosive fifth inning of their own. Sophomore Rick Brosseau sparked his team with a lead-off single, and with one out, junior Matt Scanlon landed a single to send Brosseau to third.
Scanlon then stole second and designated hitter Adam Horton walked to load the bases. Centerfielder Mike Arlt cashed in with a two-run double, and the Gophers went on to add three more runs in the fifth to give Minnesota a 9-5 lead.
The four-run deficit proved too much for the Pro-Alumni team to overcome. The former Gophers added two runs in the seventh inning before their bats were silenced for the evening.
Despite a losing effort, Twins catcher Terry Steinbach said the annual exhibition game is a great way for alumni to pay tribute to the Minnesota program.
“John makes one phone call and we usually have more than enough players,” Steinbach said. “You usually get one or two players who can’t make it, but they have good reasons.”
As for his own performance — 1-for-3 with a run and an RBI — Steinbach said he used Monday as a way to prepare for the start of spring training, which is two weeks away.
“I had a lot of pitches to hit,” Steinbach said. “But I haven’t been on the field in a couple of months. It’s kind of a self-check. It’s real important to see where I am now. I feel pretty good.”
Minnesota will open competition against other collegiate teams on Sunday, when the Gophers play St. Cloud State at the Metrodome.
Anderson said the Pro-Alumni game was a good way to attract new Gophers faithfuls.
“It has lots of value,” Anderson said. “It gives us lots of exposure and brings people out to the ball park.”