Minnesota sweeps Florida Gulf Coast on the road

Gophers pitcher Ben Meyer pitches during a game against Nebraska at Siebert Field on April 13, 2014.

Daily File Photo, Patricia Grover

Gophers pitcher Ben Meyer pitches during a game against Nebraska at Siebert Field on April 13, 2014.

Ben Gotz

Redshirt senior catcher Matt Halloran stepped to the plate in the seventh inning Friday with the bases loaded, his team locked in a scoreless draw.

The Gophers were searching for their first victory of the season after a 0-7 start against two ranked opponents and staring at their best opportunity of the night.

And after Florida Gulf Coast pitcher Mike Murray delivered, Halloran got his bat on the ball.

A base-clearing single gave the Gophers the cushion they would need in their first victory of the season.

“You always love coming up in those situations,” Halloran said. “I was waiting for a pitch. I knew he was going to throw me something offspeed, and he threw me a few curveballs right away.”

Once the team started, it couldn’t stop winning over the weekend, finishing with a three-game sweep of Florida Gulf Coast.

“I think the competition we played the first two weekends is paying off,” head coach John Anderson said. I’ve always said, ‘You don’t schedule those people because you’re worried about whether you’re going to win or lose, you schedule those people because it helps make you better.’”

Halloran’s hit was one of only four for the Gophers on Friday, but the catcher made his chance count.

He also steered his pitching staff to its best outing of the season, as the Gophers’ three pitchers combined for nine strikeouts and one earned run.

Saturday, sophomore Matt Fiedler’s bat put the Gophers on top.

The right fielder was a double short of the cycle, with three RBIs off a triple and the Gophers’ first home run of the season.

Fiedler’s day at the plate helped the Gophers overcome a 4-0 deficit after the bottom of the first. Three hits, two wild pitches and two walks put the Eagles ahead, but afterward, starting pitcher Dalton Sawyer settled down.

Sawyer allowed no more runs in 5 2/3 more innings of work, showing resiliency in the third start of his career.

“I was encouraged because I asked him to sit down after the first inning and regroup and refocus. Take a deep breath, and go back out there and start over again,” Anderson said. “That’s exactly what he did.”

The Gophers completed the sweep Sunday with their best offensive performance of the season.

Redshirt sophomore left fielder Jordan Smith led the way, going 4-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs.

“I think it was a benefit of playing some tougher competition [earlier],” Smith said. “This team has good pitching, but it wasn’t as good as we’ve seen.”

On the mound, redshirt sophomore pitcher Tim Shannon made his second start of the season, subbing in for injured Neal Kunik.

The Michigan transfer showed well for the second straight weekend, giving his team a quality start after allowing two runs in six innings.

“He was just executing pitch after pitch after pitch,” Halloran said. “He’s been lights out. It’s been really fun to watch.”

The Gophers’ bats and Shannon’s arm added up to an 8-4 victory over the Eagles to finish the series, keeping the Gophers in the win column all weekend.

“I’d say we’re getting more comfortable. Every game we’re getting more comfortable,” Smith said. “Our defense is playing good and our offense is coming around.”