Gophers split with Michigan

Tim Klobuchar

A few minutes after the umpires and coaches called off the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader between the Gophers and Michigan because of rain, Gophers catcher Bryan Guse was asked his forecast of the teams’ chances of playing Sunday.
“I think we’ll play tomorrow,” he said. “It’s supposed to stop raining tonight. I know it’s going to be colder, but we should be able to get the games in.”
The Gophers were anxious to play again after dropping a 10-5 decision to the Wolverines in the first game of the doubleheader, which came one day after a come-from-behind 7-5 win on Friday. But Saturday’s game would be the last of the series.
Guse was more optimistic than the weather forecast (which called for snow) and Gophers coach John Anderson, who treated the second game as if it were the last in the series. He brought in Ted Zrust, who usually pitches in short relief, in the second inning, and Tony Felling, a scheduled starter for Sunday, in the fifth.
“We didn’t worry about game three,” Anderson said, referring to the nightcap of the doubleheader that was rained out. “We didn’t know if we were going to play any more games this weekend or not, so we tried to win this game first.”
As it turned out, the meteorologists and Anderson were right. The snow and cold caused the cancellation of Sunday’s doubleheader, ending the series prematurely. Unfortunately for the Gophers, Anderson’s strategy didn’t affect Minnesota’s shaky defense, which committed five errors. That was the chief culprit in the 10-5 loss, which was played in steady drizzle.
The defeat was the first in Big Ten play for the Gophers. Minnesota, 16-11 overall, remained in first place in the Big Ten with a 5-1 record. Michigan is 17-12, 7-3.
The Wolverines, with the help of two Gophers errors, scored four runs in the second and one in the third to take a 5-0 lead. Minnesota rallied for four runs in its half of the third, raising the possibility of a second straight come-from-behind win. The Gophers had eliminated a 3-0 deficit in their win a day earlier.
Minnesota had six hits off Michigan starter J.J. Putz in the inning, all singles. Guse, Ben Griffin, Eric Welter and Phil McDermott all had RBI singles in the inning.
But the Gophers’ sloppy play in the fifth made another win like Friday’s a remote possibility. Center fielder Troy Stein misjudged a line drive off the bat of Bryan Besco to lead off the inning.
Then with runners on second and third and one out, freshman third baseman Matt Scanlon fielded a ground ball, thought about throwing to the plate, but threw the ball away trying to get the runner at first.
That run made the score 8-4, and culminated a forgettable day for Scanlon, who made three errors. He was filling in for senior Bob Keeney, who fouled a ball off his toe Friday and had difficulty even walking Saturday.
“That’s why I don’t like to play freshman,” Anderson said.
Both starters, Putz for Michigan and Justin Pederson for Minnesota, were hit hard. But the difference was where the Wolverines hit the ball when they didn’t get hits.
“If we don’t make a few of those errors, we win the game,” Guse said. “We know that, and I think they (Michigan) know that, too.”
Zrust, who came into the game with a microscopic 1.38 earned run average, gave up two earned runs in three innings, and Felling gave up two runs in one and two-thirds innings.
The Gophers almost had to go to the bullpen early Friday night, too, when Mike Diebolt gave up five runs in the first four innings. But the senior left-hander more than settled down. He dominated from that point on, setting down 15 of the last 18 Michigan batters, seven of them on strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s hitters did their part, eventually taking the lead in the sixth on a solo home run to right center by sophomore Robb Quinlan, his third of the year.
Quinlan was one of three Gophers to take advantage of the wind blowing out toward right field. Welter hit his first homer of the year in the third for Minnesota’s first run, and Stein hit a solo blast leading off the eighth for the Gophers’ final run. Both Quinlan’s and Stein’s home runs were to the opposite (right) field.
The game was delayed for one hour, 45 minutes by rain, serving as a prelude to the rest of the weekend.
“You can’t help the rain,” Welter said. “When we are in a rain delay, you have to stay focused because you don’t know when you’re going to be able to play.”
And that lack of power, more than their loss on Saturday, might have been the most frustrating part of the weekend for the Gophers. Players and coaches mentioned how they have no control over the weather. And that might give Minnesota less control over its fate near Big Ten tournament time.
Anderson brought up last year as an example, when the Gophers had a game against Purdue in the season-opening series rained out. Minnesota missed making the tournament by one-half game.
“You want to decide your fortunes in baseball by playing games,” he said. “You like to play all your games and decide your fate on the field.”

SATURDAY’S SUMMARY
Michigan 041 032 0 — 10 13 0
Gophers 004 010 0 — 5 10 5
Putz, Cranson (4) and Kalahar; Pederson, Zrust (2), Felling (5), Freeman (7) and Guse. W — Cranson, 3-2. L — Pederson, 2-3. HR — Michigan, B. Besco (9). T — 2:34. A — 234.

FRIDAY’S SUMMARY
Michigan 101 200 000 — 5 7 2
Gophers 002 211 01x — 7 10 1
Steinbach, Steketee (8) and Kalahar; Diebolt and Negen. W — Diebolt, 4-2. L — Steinbach, 4-3. HRs — Gophers, Stein (4), Welter (1), Quinlan (3). T — 2:42. A — 227.

Gophers hitting statistics (2 games)
AB R H RBI
Quinlan 8 2 4 2
Welter 9 1 3 3
Stein 7 3 2 1
Griffin 4 2 2 1
McDermott 6 1 2 2
Guse 4 1 2 1
Devore 5 2 2 0
Keeney 5 0 1 0
Selander 4 0 1 0
Scanlon 2 0 1 0
Beers 1 0 0 0
Groebner 4 0 0 1
Negen 4 0 0 1
Totals 63 12 20 12