While the Twin Cities are still in the clutches of winter weather, Minnesota's baseball team traveled south over the weekend where they found green grass, blue skies and brown infield dirt to begin the season.
The Gophers participated in the Angels College Classic in Tempe, Arizona, playing four West Coast opponents.
Friday — Minnesota 12, Oregon 10
Minnesota's bats took little time to heat up to start the season as the Gophers' beat Oregon 12-10 in their first game of the season. The Gophers led the Ducks 11-2 through five innings as infielders Zack Raabe and Jack Wassel each drove in three runs.
Despite the strong start, the Gophers were tested in the later innings, especially in the eighth. Sophomore J.P. Massey came in to relieve freshman Sam Ireland after Oregon loaded the bases with no outs. Massey then hit Oregon's Jack Scanlon with a pitch and threw a wild pitch in the next at-bat which allowed two Oregon runs. Oregon's Anthony Hall then hit a two-run triple with a Gopher error to follow which made it an 11-10 game.
Still, Minnesota prevailed.
Junior Max Meyer picked up the win for the Gophers, throwing for five innings of work. The righty gave up only one earned run on two hits and struck out seven batters while walking three.
Saturday — Minnesota 6, Pepperdine 8
After nearly conceding a large lead the night before, Minnesota came close to completing a comeback of its own against Pepperdine. A ninth-inning rally brought the tying run to the plate but the Gophers could not capitalize further, falling 8-6 to Pepperdine.
Junior Sam Thoresen started on the mound for Minnesota but lasted only 2.1 innings, allowing six walks and four earned runs. Minnesota grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second but Pepperdine tied the game with a pair of bases-loaded walks in the bottom half of the inning.
Pepperdine went on to score eight unanswered runs and held an 8-2 lead entering the ninth.
Wassel drew a bases-loaded walk to account for the first RBI of the inning. Then, freshman Drew Stahl drove in two more runs with his first collegiate hit. Wassel later scored on a wild pitch but Minnesota could do no better as redshirt freshman Riley Swenson struck out swinging to end the game.
Sunday – Minnesota 3, San Diego 7
Minnesota failed to rally for a second straight game and fell 7-3 to San Diego. The Gophers fell behind quickly as the Torreros opened the game with seven unanswered runs through four innings.
Meanwhile, San Diego's Carter Rustad shut down Minnesota from the mound, throwing five innings while giving up only two hits and not allowing a run. The Gophers' bats did not wake up until the top of the sixth inning when sophomore Chase Stanke hit a sacrifice fly to score Raabe.
Junior starter Patrick Fredrickson took the loss for Minnesota, giving up six earned runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings. Sophomore Andrew Wilhite led the Gophers in hitting and went 2-4 with an RBI.
Monday – Minnesota 5, Arizona 2
After two consecutive losses to wrap up the Angels College Classic, Minnesota got back on track with a 5-2 win against Arizona Monday.
The Gophers led 3-2 heading into the eighth but were able to knock in a couple of insurance runs as junior Ronald Sweeny walked with the bases loaded which was followed by an RBI single from redshirt senior Jordan Kozicky. Massey pitched 4.2 scoreless innings for the Gophers and recorded seven strikeouts.
The Gophers return to action Friday when they will face the Minnesota Twins in Fort Meyers, Florida in an exhibition game. Minnesota will then return home for a three-game series against TCU.