March 3, 2008

Gopher Baseball wins DQ Classic

Over the weekend the Gophers won their first DQ Classic since 2004. Minnesota finished 2-1 and was one strike away from going undefeated against some very good competition. Those who follow college baseball more closely than I do figured the Gophers had a chance to maybe win a game. Winning two or even winning the Classic was unreachable but John Anderson's Gophers took the momentum from their Tulane victory and defeated Pepperdine to win the tourney.

Friday Game 1
TCU - 7
Minn - 4
Box Score

Minnesota had a 1 run lead in the bottom of the ninth but gave up the tying run eventually to lose in the 12th. Heading into the tourney this appeared to be the most winable game of the three but the game was lost late and dropped the Gophers to 0-4 on the season.

Saturday Game 2
#18 Tulane - 5
Minnesota - 7
Box Score

I was fortunate enough to attend this game. Tulane was a solid team that had capable hitters throughout the lineup. I was planning on being able to head home early since Minnesota was 0-4 (getting killed by #4 Ole Miss) and Tulane is a top 20 team with aspirations of making the College World Series.

The Gophers had their chances getting guys on base early in most of the innings. But a couple pick offs and a general inability to get runners moved over killed their chances to put up that big inning.

Tulane got six solid innings from starter Aaron Loup who gave up 4 hits, 2 runs and 6 strikeouts. But the bullpen didn't fare as well and that was when Minnesota pounced. Josh Zeid entered in the 7th inning giving up one run and working out of a jam. The 8th is when it all fell apart. Zeid was unable to get an out facing three batters then Preston Clairborne came into face three batters as well but also was unable to record an out. Nick Pepitone was the third pitcher of the inning and got the big outs, but the damage was done.

On the flip side, Minnesota's inexperienced bullpen pitched great in the last 4 2/3 innings giving up 1 run, 3 hits and 6 strikeouts.

Freshman Mike Kvasnicka hit his first collegiate HR when he tied the game with a 2-run blast in the 8th.

CF - Matt Nohelty was 2/5 with 3 RBIs
LF - Eric Decker was a late inning PH and finished 1/1 with a walk and 2 runs scored.

Sunday Game 3
#30 Pepperdine - 2
Minnesota - 5
Box Score

I think most fans would have been pleased with the Tulane win, but the Gophers had their sights on actually winning their own tournament. Pepperdine is a solid club with some very strong hitters in the middle of their lineup. But starter Dustin Brabender combined with freshman Phil Isaksson (and 2/3 of an inning from Scott Fern) to give up only 4 hits, 2 runs with 8 strikeouts and Minnesota beat their second nationally recognized program in as many games.

Pepperdine has been picked to finish second in the West Coast Conference and will very likely be an NCAA Tournament team with a legit shot at the College World Series. Minnesota was fortunate to not have to face preseason All-American pitcher Brett Hunter, but this was a great win none the less.

Additional Thoughts...

** Eric Decker (#30 pictured below) was a difference maker in Saturday's win over Tulane. It is my opinion that once he gets some at bats and his timing down Decker will be our everyday LF.

** I think we have a future stud in Mike Kvasnicka (#9 pictured below). The kid hits the ball hard, but is clearly adjusting to collegiate pitching. The fact that he can play RF and C is a huge plus and will ensure him many innings this season. Kvasnicka had four RBIs and two home runs this weekend, one from each side of the plate.

** While the starting pitching is OK, the bullpen has been very impressive (and they are YOUNG).

  • Phil Isaksson - true freshman. 4 Ks, 3.2 innings, no hits, no runs vs. Pepperdine. Retired 9 straight batters.
  • Chauncy Handran - JUCO transfer, throws HARD. 4 Ks, 2.2 innings, 1 run allowed
  • Seth Rosin - freshman looked impressive in his save vs. Tulane
  • Scott Matyas - freshman putting up good numbers all year
There are more but those kids have stood out to me

** Positions that are locked down. Currently 3B, SS, 2B and CF are solidified by guys who will start nearly every game.

** Positions waiting to be earned. 1B, LF, RF and C are all kind of platoon positions. I think by the time we hit Big Ten play Decker will lock down LF and Kvasnicka will own RF to give the entire lineup more stability.

** CF-Matt Nohelty was tournament MVP as he hit .467 with 5 RBIs.

** The wins over Tulane and Pepperdine should go a long towards an NCAA Tournament at large bid. Getting killed by Ole Miss was bad, but beating two teams who will likely be participants in the NCAAs will be huge.

Photos from my trip to the DQ Classic.

If you get a chance to go watch the Gophers play, I highly recommend it. I have never been to a college baseball game and I am here to report that it is a lot of fun. You are close to the action and you watch players who really enjoy what they are doing.


alex said...

I went to a game in the DQ Classic last year and was able to sit first row above the Gopher dugout when showing up ~30 minutes early. Just from looking at your pictures, it looks like it was much more packed than last years.

Brian P. Foley said...

College Baseball is one of the best bargains in the country. The competition is very good and just a good time to site and watch some games.