Sluggish start, defensive struggles doom Gophers in Metrodome opener

A Panthers homer in the 5th put the game out of reach for Minnesota.

by Aleutian Calabay

The Minnesota baseball team is still searching to find the right combination to turn effort into wins early in the season. Teams are continuing to take advantage of the Gophers as they are in flux, and that trend continued Wednesday night as Wisconsin-Milwaukee handed Minnesota a crushing 13-6 defeat in the Metrodome opener. The loss now puts the Gophers on a four-game losing streak just seven games into the regular season. âÄúItâÄôs going to be bumpy here,âÄù Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. âÄúWe have a young team here, and weâÄôre going to have to pitch and play defense, and thatâÄôs the part weâÄôre going to have to improve on until we can get some experience for our younger guys.âÄù The Gophers appear willing to work with young pitchers and hitters as the season progresses. Freshman Kevin Kray started in his Gophers debut against the Panthers and was relieved by freshman Billy Soule . The results were not spectacular as the two combined to give up nine runs, including five earned on 11 hits in five innings of work. Minnesota was led at the plate by junior Mike Kvasnicka who had three hits, including two doubles and an RBI. Sophomore Kyle Geason finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Kray got off to a rough start in the first inning as the first batter he faced hit a slicing double and later scored to give Wisconsin-Milwaukee an early 1-0 lead. âÄúWe need to come out and play better in the first inning,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúThatâÄôs been the problem over the last four games, and it makes things difficult having to play from behind.âÄù The GophersâÄô defense began falling apart in the middle innings as four errors led to four unearned runs as the Panthers extended their lead to 6-2 in the top of fourth inning. Minnesota answered back in the bottom of the fourth inning by scoring four runs on four hits, capped by an RBI single by Kvasnicka to tie the game at six. Although momentum appeared to be swinging in the GophersâÄô direction, the Panthers came right back to retake the lead in the top of fifth inning as PanthersâÄô centerfielder Doug Dekoning smashed a three-run home run to deep right field. Wisconsin-Milwaukee soon began putting the game out of reach, scoring three runs in the sixth inning powered by extra-base hits off Gophers pitching. Meanwhile the Minnesota bats became completely dormant. Following the four-run fourth, the GophersâÄô only other hit was an Ethan Liederman infield single in the bottom of the eighth. âÄúAs a team we just need to move forward,âÄù Geason said. âÄúGive credit to Milwaukee, they came out and played hard. We just need to forget about it and get back to the fundamentals.âÄù The Gophers now move on to host the 26th annual Dairy Queen Classic tournament this weekend. Minnesota will play Loyola Marymount on Friday and Oklahoma State on Saturday, with both games beginning at 6:35 p.m. The Gophers then close out the weekend against Northwestern at 3:05 p.m. Sunday.