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Houston sweeps Gophers baseball in final U.S. Bank Stadium games

Minnesota has now been swept three times this season, but Friday, Saturday and Sundays’ games marked the first time at home.
Image by CJ Bonk
Tucker Novotny pitches the ball at the game against Hawaii in U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday, March 3.

The Gophers were back in action Friday through Sunday against the Houston Cougars, looking to build on their March 15 win against Gonzaga.

Having already hosted eight games there, U.S. Bank Stadium had begun to feel like home for Minnesota.

That feeling quickly diminished once the Gophers failed to defeat the Cougars in three games, dropping their record to 3-8 inside the Minnesota Vikings’ home stadium.

March 17

The first game of the series was a pitching duel between Tucker Novotny and Maddux Miller.
Through the first four innings of the game, there were only five hits between both teams.

The breakthrough came on an RBI groundout in the fifth inning by Ian McMillan, and Houston added another on a sacrifice bunt by Drew Bianco, making the score 2-0.

In the seventh inning, the Cougars added what became the deciding run from an RBI single from first baseman Justin Murray.

Brett Bateman made one of the best catches you will ever see, robbing Houston’s Zach Arnold of a home run. The play would be featured as the 4th best play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of Saturday.

Trailing by 2 entering the bottom of the eighth, the Gophers fought their way back into the game on the back of back-to-back home runs from Brady Counsell and Ike Mezzenga.

Those two runs were the only offense the Gophers could muster as they fell 3-2 to Houston in Game 1.

March 18

In Game 2, the Gophers were the ones to jump out to an early lead on a solo home run off the bat of Weber Neels.

Gophers ace George Klassen was on the mound and held a no-hitter through five and two-thirds innings. That would be the only offense Houston could muster against Klassen as he went seven and two-thirds innings and struck out eight hitters.

The eight strikeouts and seven and two-thirds innings pitched were career highs for Klassen, who was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week.

Freshman Weber Neels hit his second homer of the day in the seventh inning, giving the Gophers a 2-0 lead.

For the second day in a row, Murray produced in the clutch for the Cougars, launching a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game.

Minnesota failed to score in the ninth, and in extras, Houston added 2 more in the top of the tenth, which proved backbreaking as the Cougars won 4-2.

March 19

Game 3 started off with a bang as Jake Perry homered in the bottom of the first inning to give Minnesota an early lead.

After a throwing error allowed the tying run to score in the top of the third, Alex Lopez singled up the middle to score 2 more and put Houston up 3-1.

The Gophers would not go away; Jake Larson doubled down the right field line, driving in Brady Jurgella, pulling the Gophers within 1.

That is as close as Minnesota would get as the Cougars tacked on 2 more in the eighth off of a sacrifice fly by Zach Arnold and a solo home run by Lopez.

Once again, the Gophers came up short and dropped the third game 5-2, Houston completing the sweep in Minneapolis.

A two-game road trip is up next for Minnesota as they take on Illinois State, looking to get back on track before Big Ten play begins.

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