Minnesota starts season 3-1 in Arizona

The team only lost its last game of the weekend against No. 5 Oregon State.

Gophers outfielder Matt Fielder runs to third base at Siebert Field on April 28, 2015.

Alex Tuthill-Preus, Daily File Photo

Gophers outfielder Matt Fielder runs to third base at Siebert Field on April 28, 2015.

Kaitlin Merkel

The Gophers baseball team opened its season in Surprise, Ariz., over the weekend and won three of four games.
 
 
Minnesota’s lineup hit well to open the season, outscoring opponents 31-13 in the four games.
 
 
The team beat Utah 6-1 on Friday, Utah Valley 8-2 on Saturday and split a doubleheader with Utah and No. 5 Oregon State on Sunday. The Gophers beat Utah 9-3 in the two teams’ second game and lost to Oregon State 8-7.
 
 
“We came into this weekend thinking we were a really good team, and I think we’re leaving knowing that for a fact,” junior outfielder and pitcher Matt Fiedler said. “We played really well in all phases of the game — pitching, hitting, running, defense. And a lot of guys stepped up. It wasn’t just a couple of guys.”
 
 
Fiedler started Minnesota’s first game of the season Friday and allowed one run on two hits in five-and-two-thirds innings.
 
 
He received plenty of support from his offense, which totaled 12 hits from eight different players. Fiedler himself went 3-4 with one RBI, while sophomore first baseman Toby Hanson had three hits, including a home run in the fifth inning.
 
 
Minnesota added 11 hits from nine players on Saturday against Utah Valley in the team’s second victory. Senior pitcher Dalton Sawyer started the game and struck out five batters while giving up three hits in four-and-two-thirds scoreless innings.
 
 
The Gophers pitchers then dominated Utah in the team’s early game Sunday, with starting pitcher Toby Anderson and relievers Cody Campbell and Nick Lackney combining to take a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
 
 
“It worked out for us because all of our starters got us into the fourth or fifth inning with their pitch counts, and that really helps,” head coach John Anderson said. “And the fact that we scored some runs in every ballgame.”
 
 
The Utes broke through with a hit in the eighth and recorded three runs in the bottom of the ninth, but it wasn’t enough against a relentless Gophers offense.
 
 
Four freshman — centerfielder Ben Mezzenga, second baseman Terrin Vavra, designated hitter Eddie Estrada and shortstop Riley Smith — made their first starts for Minnesota in the victory.
 
 
The four combined for seven hits, six runs and four RBIs in their starting debuts.
 
 
“We played two games [Sunday], and it was warm, and we didn’t want to have to play some of the guys,” Anderson said. “There was freshmen at the top [of the lineup batting] … and they did a nice job.”
 
 
Minnesota took a 5-3 lead over the Beavers in the top of the third inning during their second game Sunday, due to a three-run home run by Hanson.
 
 
“Obviously, there was a lot of excitement to get outside finally and start playing,” Hanson said. “As far as my approach, I just wasn’t trying to do too much. Just put some nice swings on the ball, and good things were able to happen throughout the weekend.”
 
 
The teams traded runs back-and-forth afterward and were tied 7-7 heading into the eighth inning. Oregon State scored one run in the bottom of the eighth, and the Gophers lineup couldn’t come up with a final run with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth.