Once undervalued, Luke Pettersen becomes one of Minnesota’s top hitters

The senior infielder led the Gophers last season with a .354 batting average.

Sophomore Luke Pettersen prepares to bat at Siebert Field on April 1, 2016.

Niti Gupta, Daily File Photo

Sophomore Luke Pettersen prepares to bat at Siebert Field on April 1, 2016.

Jack Warrick

Head coach John Anderson said in 2016 Luke Pettersen was an in-betweener — a guy who would be very good at the Division II level, but possibly might not cut it at the Division I level.

But now in his senior year, Pettersen has proved he can make it at the highest level in college baseball.

Pettersen finished last season batting a .354, the highest on the team. Now, through the first 25 games of this season, Pettersen is batting at .308 as the leadoff hitter.

“Our foresight has proved accurate,” Anderson said. “We liked him as a defensive player, and thought he could be a good defensive player. The question mark was how much he was going to hit, and obviously that’s been well-documented.”

Pettersen was not heavily recruited out of high school. He had only one offer, from Augustana University, a Division II program in South Dakota.

“I played in the fall league, kind of trying to get seen. And we were kind of waiting for them to recruit me, to be honest,” Pettersen said. “[Gophers assistant head coach Rob Fornasiere] ended up reaching out, and then he came over to our house, said they had a roster spot for me. I knew that was my decision the second he told me.”

He went into his freshman season as a walk-on, and only played in 17 of the 51 games of that 2015 season. His sophomore year, Pettersen played in 40 of the 58 games and started 25 of them.  He made a name for himself as the No. 1 hitter for the Gophers, starting 53 of 57 games last season, his junior year.

“I think Luke would say the same thing, that maybe his first years when he wasn’t getting all this playing time, it was really difficult for him, because he was trying to be something different,” said A.J. Pettersen, Luke’s brother. “As long as he’s not striving to be something more than he is, he does just fine.”

A.J. Pettersen played for the Gophers from 2009 to 2011, up until he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 25th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Pettersen was also not recruited heavily. He redshirted his first season with the Gophers as Anderson said he wasn’t ready to play.

“Growing up, every single tidbit of information [A.J.] got, as he kind of climbed the ladder, he brought to me,” Luke said.

Though the brothers both played middle infield, A.J. Pettersen said his brother was a different player than him.

“[Luke has] always been a step ahead of … just being a more polished baseball player,” Pettersen said. “He was a step ahead in terms of the mechanics of baseball from the get go.”

Luke Pettersen was on the Big Ten regular season championship team in his sophomore season when he wasn’t starting a majority of the games. He and his team will shoot for another title to close out his time with Minnesota baseball.

“He wanted to wear the ‘M’ and be a part of this program, and he just wanted an opportunity,” Anderson said. “‘Give me a chance, and I’ll earn my playing time,’ and that’s exactly what he’s done.”