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Gophers baseball took home four wins from spring break road trip

Last week was the first time Minnesota had a winning record after a road trip since their Big Ten opening series in 2023.
Image by Gopher Athletics (courtesy)
Minnesota traveled to California for four games before a three-game series with Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington.

Gophers baseball spent spring break on the West Coast, and the bats were rolling as Minnesota averaged over seven-and-a-half runs per game.

Minnesota hit 13 home runs as a team on the seven-game road trip after hitting just two in the first seven games of the season.

Redshirt junior Ike Mezzenga was on fire for the Gophers, hitting .346 and driving in 11 runs. Mezzenga also hit four homers in the seven games, equaling his home run total from 2023.

In Minnesota’s comeback victory against Pacific on Mar. 4, the Gophers trailed 5-0 after the first inning. In the top of the sixth inning, trailing 5-1, sophomore Kris Hokenson hit a solo home run.

Mezzenga followed suit, hitting a homer in the following at-bat. The Gophers would bat around and Mezzenga would come up again with the bases loaded to deliver a grand slam, capping off a nine-run inning. Minnesota won 12-5.

Mezzenga said it was the first time he had ever hit two home runs in the same inning.

“Yeah, that was definitely a bucket list thing,” Mezzenga said.

Mezzenga spends most of his time as the designated hitter, which he said has taken some getting used to with free time during the innings.

The Gophers went 3-1 in California, winning both games against Pacific and splitting a two-game series with Sacramento State. Minnesota then traveled to Spokane, Wash., to take on Gonzaga in a series in which they dropped two out of the three games.

However, the lone win against Gonzaga marked Minnesota’s sixth win of the season. In 2023, it took the Gophers 25 games to reach the six-win mark.

Gophers head coach John Anderson said the team’s improvement in winning ball games is due to health and preparation in the fall.

“I think first and foremost, we’re healthy,” Anderson said. “I think number two, they’ve worked really, really hard and prepared really hard since last fall, and I think it shows in terms of the quality of play here early.”

One key injury the Gophers had before the season was the loss of junior left-handed pitcher Noah Rooney. As a result, Anderson expected Hokenson to step into a larger role on the staff. However, Justin Thorsteinson has been a revelation in the bullpen and taking on the bulk of the left-handed leverage innings.

Hokenson hit .455 and three home runs on the West Coast trip along with five extra-base hits and a 1.493 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

Hokenson said the trip to Sacramento was his first time visiting California.

“I’d never been to Cali, so it was a fun time being there for the first time,” Hokenson said.

Minnesota defeated the St Olaf Oles 5-1 in their home opener on Wednesday. The Gophers scored three first-inning runs and never looked back.

Redshirt freshman pitcher Nick Argento made his official Gophers debut after pitching in the exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers. Argento went three scoreless innings, striking out three.

Freshman pitcher Will Whelan made his third appearance of the season, picking up his first collegiate win after two innings where he allowed one run and struck out four.

On offense, Jack Spanier notched his first career RBI in the game on a groundout with the bases loaded while Drew Berkland was the only Gopher with multiple hits.

The Gophers will travel to North Carolina to play Elon in a three-game series as they wind down their non-conference schedule.

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