Gophers sweep first games at U.S. Bank Stadium

The new venue led the team to its earliest home slate start since 2013.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Reggie Meyer pitches the ball on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Gophers won 11-7 against the University of Seattle.

Chris Dang

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Reggie Meyer pitches the ball on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Gophers won 11-7 against the University of Seattle.

Tommy Sletten

The Minnesota baseball team started its home portion of the schedule early this year – and the Gophers fared well with a sweep.

The weekend marked not only Minnesota’s first home series of the season but also its first in U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Gophers will call home for the next month during their cold season.

“Coming into a new stadium that we’ve never played in before and being able to execute and have so many guys contribute to our success was huge,” said centerfielder Ben Mezzenga. “It was good to get out here and get the sweep to get the home season started

Minnesota started its home slate with a splash, dominating the Seattle University Redhawks in each of the three game series with 13-4, 6-3 and 11-7 victories.

A late spark led Minnesota to victory Friday, with the Gophers scoring four runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings for the win.

Toby Hanson went 3-4 at the plate and tallied three RBI for Minnesota. The junior also got the win on the mound with no earned runs and three strikeouts through 3.2 innings pitched.

Freshman Brett Schulze made his first collegiate start Saturday and pitched five innings en route to a Gophers victory.

Three Minnesota batters went 2-4 on the day, and the Gophers tallied two doubles and one triple.

While most parts of all three games were clearly in favor of Minnesota, Seattle had chances to ruin the Gophers’ sweep Sunday.

The Redhawks had the game within one run in the seventh inning.

But the Gophers offense exploded in the bottom of the eighth inning, led by a double from Toby Hanson, which drove in third baseman Micah Coffey and advanced catcher Matt Stemper to third.

Outfielder Jordan Smith followed with a double to push the score to 11-7 and a victory.

Minnesota was led by infielder Luke Pettersen, who has hit 13-17 on the season and six RBI.

“I’m proud of Luke, he’s learned a lot the last couple years,” said head coach John Anderson. “He’s playing much more relaxed, with a smile on his face. He’s just being Luke, and Luke can beat you a lot of different ways.”

Petterson has been consistent early in the season, something he hopes he and the team can continue.

“I‘m just trying to see the ball and hit it up the middle,” Petterson said. “Just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win, and it’s working out right now.”

There was no answer for the hot-hitting Gophers throughout the series. The team compiled 30 runs and 42 hits.

While hitting was a strength for Minnesota, the pitching is still an area of focus.

“Our pitching is a work in progress, we knew that coming in,” Coach Anderson said. “We lost five really good arms from last year’s team, and it’s gonna take some time here, but it’s good to have some offense to rely on.”