Baseball bounced by Baylor at NCAAs

by Sarah Mitchell

WACO, Texas — Gophers starting pitcher Mike Kobow’s first warm-up pitch, which hit the dirt and skipped past catcher Josh Holthaus, gave way to some razzing from Baylor faithfuls early Sunday.
Both were a sign of the game ahead.
More than 4,000 fans were in attendance at Baylor’s Ferrell Field for the regional championship and remained vocal throughout the game as their team put an end to the Gophers’ (46-18) postseason run.
Top-seeded Baylor (49-13) produced runs in all but the fifth inning of the tournament finale to beat Minnesota 22-6 in a game that was brutal for both benches.
“I wasn’t comfortable until the last out,” Bears coach Steve Smith said. “Our guys just kept on keeping on. We had a good day offensively.”
Minnesota saw the offensive drubbing in another light.
“There really wasn’t a need for it. They had shut us down. We hadn’t scored any runs in a couple of innings,” Gophers first baseman Robb Quinlan said. “I was pretty pissed off about it myself. I thought they were a classier team than what they showed.”
Twenty-nine Bears hits and six scoreless innings hurled by reliever Justin Taylor allowed Baylor to overcome five errors in the field. Baylor moves on to a super regional against Oklahoma State this weekend, while Minnesota heads home to give its bullpen plenty of time to rest up for next season.
With the starting rotation worn down and southpaw Dan McGrath out for the season with a shoulder injury, the Gophers coaching staff gave Sunday’s starting nod to Kobow — a right-hander who had only thrown 18 innings for Minnesota. The freshman surrendered 10 hits and eight runs, but thanks to a little punch at the plate the Gophers were still in the game when Kobow exited the game in the third inning.
Designated hitter Aron Amundson’s first-inning three-run homer and infielder Matt Scanlon’s solo shot in the bottom of the fourth kept Minnesota within distance, down 9-6.
“We battled hard out there,” Quinlan said. “Things just went their way.”
With Kobow on the bench, Minnesota’s pitching deteriorated, going through four relievers, while Smith found a suitable replacement for Bears starter Chad Hawkins.
Back from a two game suspension, Hawkins — usually the second man in the team’s rotation — lasted only three innings, allowing 10 hits and six runs. In relief, Taylor allowed just five hits while striking out three and walking two.
“(Taylor) stopped the snow ball from rolling down the hill for them and our bullpen wasn’t able to do that for us,” Gophers coach John Anderson said. “Our snowball got bigger as it headed down the hill. Theirs got stopped and went in the other direction. That’s what it came down to. Their bullpen did a better job than ours did.”
Even the Bears’ No. 9 hitter caused problems for Minnesota pitchers. Catcher Bryan Loeb’s 3-for-5 performance, including a double and a three-run home run, helped end the careers of five Gophers with a thud.
In their absence, a fairly young team will return for Minnesota next season. Signs like Gophers catcher Paul Hartmann getting his first career hit (a crowd-silencing single in the bottom of the ninth inning) Sunday leaves Minnesota with reason for optimism.
“I think our team’s come a long way. I thought we fought and battled all year long,” Anderson said. “I’m proud of our kids.”
Four named all-tourney
Four Gophers — Quinlan, Scanlon, Amundson and center fielder Mike Arlt — made the all-tournament team.
Quinlan went 6-for-16 while scoring four runs and driving in eight. The senior recorded two home runs and a double.
Scanlon went 7-for-16 with two of his hits off Bears pitcher Jason Jennings. Jennings is expected to be a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft.
Arlt went 6-for-16, hitting his fourth home run off the year. Jennings surrendered the solo shot to Arlt Saturday.
Amundson was 4-for-14 at the plate. The senior scored four runs while driving in four.
ù The Gophers reached the regional championship game by beating Arizona 4-3 in the opener, losing 6-4 to Baylor Saturday and bouncing back with a 15-10 defeat of Eastern Illinois later that night.
Championship Game