Baseball suffers error-filled finale in loss to Nebraska

Brian Stensaas

Heading into the Dairy Queen Classic at the Metrodome, Minnesota baseball coach John Anderson knew his team would be up against some of the nation’s top talent.

He hoped, however, once everything was all said and done the end result would be a little better than what transpired Sunday against No. 16 Nebraska.

Thanks in part to six Gophers errors, the Cornhuskers breezed to a 15-2 win in the tournament finale. Nebraska won the Classic going 3-0.

Minnesota, No. 7 Wake Forest and No. 14 Notre Dame all went 1-2 over the three-day tournament.

“You can’t make that many errors and fall behind to a good team like that,” Anderson said. “We have to give ourselves more of a chance than that.”

While the fielding woes were no help, the Gophers’ (3-4) pitching was nothing to write home about early against the Cornhuskers.

Starting hurler Craig Molldrem gave up a triple on the game’s fourth pitch and fell behind 1-0 by the time the contest was five minutes old. Matt Hopper’s two-run homerun off Molldrem in the top of the second made it a 6-0 game and a quick exit for the Gophers junior.

Minnesota finally got on the board in the bottom of the third when Luke Appert’s single up the middle scored Dan Thompson.

Appert finished the tournament with a .462 batting average and joined teammate David Hrncirik on the all-tournament team.

“We’re disappointed in how we played, but we just need to forget about it now,” Appert said. “We can compete with these kinds of teams on down the road, but we have to work on all areas first.”

The Gophers’ best outing of the tournament came Saturday afternoon against the Irish.

Pitcher C.J. Woodrow started strong, going perfect through four innings and guiding Minnesota to an 8-2 win.

Sam Steidl scored on Appert’s single in the first inning before Gary Dick and Jon Becker each notched RBI groundouts in the fourth inning. Appert then smoked a two-run homer to right in the fifth making it 5-0 Minnesota.

Brian Bull pitched three innings of relief, giving up only one unearned run while picking up his first save of the season.

“It all starts on the mound,” Anderson said. “It’s early in the year, but obviously we will evaluate pitching – and everything else – and hopefully figure some things out before next weekend.”

Minnesota opened the tournament Friday night with a 7-3 loss against Wake Forest.

Kyle Sleeth, the Deacons’ ace pitcher, came into the game with an ERA of zero. That quickly changed, however, when Scott Welch’s two-run double in the fourth inning gave the Gophers an early lead. Welch then scored on Matt Fornasiere’s single later in the inning, but they proved to be Minnesota’s only runs of the game while Wake Forest exploded for seven runs.

Minnesota now has four days to let the weekend sink in before No. 2 Cal State Fullerton comes to town for a three-game series at the Dome beginning Friday.