The Minnesota Gophers Softball Team got off to a fast start and never looked back in defeating the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters 11-3 in the first game of the Tuscaloosa Regional. The Gophers will now play the winner of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Albany Great Danes at 1:30 Saturday.
Sara Groenewegen started for the Gophers in the circle and went to work. She pitched just two innings, did not give up a hit, walked one batter and struck out two. Minnesota would score three runs in the bottom of the first inning, one on a Maddie Houlihan RBI single, and two more on a MaKenna Partain two-RBI double. IN the second inning, Minnesota loaded the bases on a walk and two hit batters before Houlihan ripped a two-run double to left to put the Gophers up 5-0. Partain knocked in her third run of the game with a single, and then after another walk Groenewegen would plate two more on a single to make it 8-0 Minnesota after two innings.
The Gophers took Groenewegen out of the game and replaced her with freshman Amber Fiser. The Lady Techsters would get back a run in the top of the third inning after a Gopher error to cut the lead to 8-1. Minnesota struck back immediately as RBI singles by Houlihan and Partain bookended a throwing error by Louisiana Tech that resulted in three more runs to give Minnesota an 11-1 lead.
Both teams went down in order in the fourth inning, and Tori Finucane came on to pitch for the Gophers in the top of the fifth. The Lady Techsters took advantage of two more errors by the Gophers to score two runs, but their last ditch attempt to keep the game alive was ruined when after an error by Partain, first basemen Sydney Dwyer picked up the loose ball and threw out Morgan Turkoly trying to score from second base. Minnesota kept their 8-run lead and the run-rule went into effect to end the game with an 11-3 Gopher win.
Houlihan and Partain both finished the game going 3-3 with four RBI. Fiser got credit for the win to move her record to 14-0 with a 1.65 ERA on the season.
Minnesota will now await the winner of the second game this afternoon between Alabama and Albany. The winner faces the Gophers at 1:30 Saturday afternoon on one of the ESPN family of channels. The winner of that game will advance to the regional final on Sunday, while the loser will play a second game immediately against the winner of the losers bracket game.