Gophers learn rigors of season

Sarah Mitchell

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Although members of the Gophers baseball team are disappointed they don’t have hotel rooms booked this weekend in Omaha, Neb., the home of the College World Series, they can take some comfort in knowing they can stay in Minneapolis.
The Gophers have been dealing with travel and room check-in hassles the past six out of seven weekends. While the road trip has been successful — the team went 13-8 — Gophers coach John Anderson said the weekends away from home have taken their toll on the young team.
Anderson labeled the team’s 19-1 loss to Stanford in Palo Alto on Friday as Minnesota’s poorest performance of the year. While Anderson is “not one to make excuses, we have to take responsibility for what happened,” the veteran coach said the players might have been physically and mentally exhausted from the constant commotion.
“We haven’t played a Division I game at home since April 26, so I think we are probably a little road weary,” Anderson said. “I think the game (Thursday against Alabama) probably took a little bit of wind out of our sails. I hope you don’t take that as an excuse, but I didn’t see the same jump in our legs today that I have seen all year.”
Right fielder Craig Selander said it wasn’t so much the time spent traveling that wore the team down, as much as the typical end of the year stresses. The junior said Minnesota (45-15) accomplished more than expected being away from Siebert Field so much.
“It was a long season,” Selander said. “We were on the road a lot. That’s a pretty good record for being on the road that much.”
It might not have been exhausted Gophers players that struggled against Stanford, but rather frustrated ones. After being in control most of the previous night against Alabama, it was a shock for the Gophers to be in the loser’s bracket. Fifth-seeded Minnesota was leading the second-seeded Crimson Tide 2-1 after seven and a half innings, but the Alabama offense revived itself, scoring seven runs in the bottom of the eighth.
“We didn’t play good,” first baseman Robb Quinlan said of the Gophers performance against Stanford. “Once they got up we let down a little bit. There was some frustration from the day before.”
Minnesota was baffled for the entire game. Stanford scored seven unanswered runs through the first three innings and at the end of the game had outhit the Gophers 23-5.
“It all happened so quick,” Selander said.
Although the Gophers might have struggled from exhaustion on the road, other players in the tournament battled different adversities, such as the lack of fan support.
Alabama pitcher Jarrod Kingrey, who threw the complete game 8-2 win against Minnesota, blamed his team’s slow start against the Gophers on the quiet onlookers.
“Out here is something I don’t think I have ever played in,” the senior said of Stanford’s Sunken Field. “There is not much noise like when we are playing at home with 4,000 people going crazy. It’s kind of hard to get pumped up, and I think that’s what took us so long to get going.”
Alabama’s season is over and Kingrey might be going to the next level when the Major League Amateur Draft takes place on June 2.
The draft could also affect Minnesota. The Gophers’ success next year depends upon not only the team’s record on the road, but also which players decide to stay.
First baseman Robb Quinlan, right fielder Craig Selander and pitcher Brad Pautz are the team’s top prospects for early entrance into a Major League team’s farm system.
Even if those players leave, this year’s tournament set some groundwork for the future. Still, the 1999 season is the furthest thought from some of the players’ minds.
“That’s a long ways away,” Selander said. “A lot of things can happen in that time span.”