Gophers drop two to Creighton

Tim Klobuchar

Gophers freshman outfielder Ben Birk, who had just one pitching appearance all year and a 99.00 earned run average, turned in one of the team’s most effective pitching performances in a Wednesday doubleheader loss to Creighton, 9-8 and 10-5.
That speaks well for Birk, who hadn’t pitched since Minnesota’s spring trip in February, but it also speaks volumes about the inexperience and lack of depth of the Gophers’ staff, at least when it comes to nonconference, midweek games.
Minnesota used nine pitchers, seven of them freshman or sophomores, which is in direct contrast to Big Ten games when three seniors usually start the four games and senior Ted Zrust comes first in relief.
It wasn’t so much the 19 hits the Blue Jays got in the two games, but the 16 walks Gophers pitchers issued that irked Minnesota coach John Anderson.
“You can’t walk that many people,” he said. “I just can’t accept that. If you’re going to pitch in this program, you have to at least throw the ball over the plate.”
Unfortunately, Gophers pitchers often made the mistake of throwing the ball over the plate to Creighton first baseman/pitcher Kevin Frederick in the second game. He got the save in game one but also struck out three times. He made amends in the second game by jacking three home runs, including one to right center that carried more than 420 feet, good for six runs batted in. His three-run blast in the third put Creighton up 5-2, a lead it would not lose.
In the first game, the Gophers nearly overcame a three-run deficit in their final at-bat before losing 9-8.
Trailing 9-6 entering the seventh, Minnesota put together three straight singles to produce one run off Frederick. Then Phil McDermott’s single to left-center made it 9-7. But Frederick’s nasty curve finally started snapping, and the next two hitters, Matt Scanlon and Mike Arlt, struck out.
Craig Selander bounced a single through the right side to score pinch runner Ben Birk and get Minnesota within one. But Frederick struck out Troy Stein on three straight pitches to get his ninth save and finally end the two-hour, 44 minute game.
The Blue Jays broke a 5-5 tie in the fifth with three runs off losing pitcher Adam Williams. Two of the runs were unearned, but Williams was to blame for those as well. He tried to pick Troy Carley off first base with the bases loaded, but the throw was wide of first and the ball rolled into foul territory in right field, scoring two runs.
Gophers sophomore Robb Quinlan continued his remarkable hitting with a solo home run in the first inning, his seventh of the year and fourth in two games. He smacked three the previous night in Ames, Iowa, against Iowa State. His homer Wednesday was also his eighth straight hit, spanning three games. He walked his next two times up and, maybe tired of being walked, swung at a 3-0 pitch out of the strike zone and flied to right in the sixth.
Minnesota, now 18-15 overall and in third place in the Big Ten at 6-3, travels to Ohio State this weekend for a big series with the second-place Buckeyes. Junior outfielder Mark Groebner said he’s not too worried about this sweep carrying over to the Ohio State series.
“(On Wednesday) a lot of guys pitched who haven’t had a chance to throw in a while,” he said. “That’s why we’re not totally concerned about a bad weekend.”
Note: Minnesota inked shortstop Rick Brosseau to a national letter of intent Wednesday. Brosseau bats left and throws right for Hill Murray High School. His brother Matt currently plays for the Gophers and their father Frank played in the late ’60’s.

SUMMARY — GAME 1
Creighton 102 230 1 — 9 9 2
Gophers 110 310 2 — 8 11 2
Sladonvik, Koltz (1), Erickson (4), Council (5), Frederick (7) and Christensen; McGrath, Pautz (4), Williams (5), Zrust (7) and Negen, Guse (6). W — Erickson, 4-2. L — Williams, 1-2. Sv — Frederick (9). HRs — Creighton, Christensen (11); Gophers, Quinlan (7). T — 2:44. A — 129.

SUMMARY — GAME 2
Creighton 204 202 0 — 10 10 1
Gophers 021 020 0 — 5 9 1
Geller, Sterling (6), Erickson (7) and Smith; Wagner, Kitzerow (3), Birk (3), Gangl (5), Dobis (6) and Guse. W — Geller, 4-0. L — Wagner, 2-1. HRs — Creighton, Christensen (12), Frederick 3 (8); Gophers, Welter (2). T — 2:30. A — 167.