The #22 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers softball team shook off their previous 0-4 weekend in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge to go 5-0 at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic in Orlando this past weekend. The Gophers got four wins over unranked teams, and topped #23 Kentucky Wildcats as well.
Minnesota would top the Wildcats 2-1 on Friday. Gopher ace pitcher Amber Fiser would give up just three hits and one run in the win. Minnesota scored the winning run in the fourth inning when freshman pinch hitter Alex Velasquez got her first collegiate hit on a single just inside the right field line to bring in two Gophers.
In the second game on Friday, Minnesota jumped on South Alabama immediately when Makenna Partain led off the game with a home run. Minnesota would add two runs in the third, another pair in the fourth, a five spot in the fifth, and then cap the game off with three in the seventh. South Alabama would have their best inning in the fourth whe they would plate two runs to chase Fiser from the game after four innings. She would still pick up the win after Carlie Brandt entered the game and allowed just one hit in the final three innings to pick up her first save of the season.
The top of the Gopher lineup produced like last season. Partain went 3-4 with three runs scored and three rbi, Danielle Parlich went 3-5 and knocked in four runs, and Kendyl Lindaman went just 1-3, but that one hit was a home run that left the park in a flash.
The Gophers would play another pair of games on Saturday, and it would be their pitchers who would dominate the day. Fiser would get the start again against the Bradley Braves in the first game. Fiser took a no hitter into the top of the sixth inning before allowing a single. She struck out nine batters, one off of her career high. On offense, Minnesota gave Fiser an early lead when Lindaman would rip her fifth home run over the wall in the top of the first. The three-run shot put Minnesota up 3-0. Sidney Dwyer would add a solo shot in the fourth to make it 4-0. Hannah Bailey came in to pitch the seventh and close out the game for the Gophers.
The Gophers gave the ball to Brandt in the circle against Lehigh in the second game of the day. Brandt was nearly a carbon copy of Fiser taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and allowing just one unearned run on two hits. Minnesota would once again jump to an early lead when Dwyer hit her second home run of the day to put the Gophers up 2-0 in the first inning. Minnesota would add tow more in the fourth and a single run in the seventh to put them up 5-1 going into the last frame. Freshman Rachel Lowary made her collegiate debut pitching the seventh and finished the win for Minnesota.
Minnesota would finish off the perfect weekend with an extra-innings win over the Duke Blue Devils on Sunday. Fiser would throw a complete game and strike out another nine batters giving up just one run and three hits to get her seventh win of the season.
The Gophers got their first run of the game in the third when Danielle Parlich and Partain worked a double steal to perfection allowing Partain to take home. Duke would tie the game in the bottom of the third, and neither team could score again in regulation. The extra innings were played under international rules, which placed a runner on second base with no outs to start the 8th inning. Back to back bunt singles loaded the bases with no outs for Partain who took advantage ripping a double that cleared the bases to put Minnesota up 4-1. Lindaman would knock in Partain two batters later to push the score to 5-1. Duke would load the bases themselves in the bototm of the 8th, but a strikeout and a groundout ended the game and gave Minnesota their perfect weekend.
The Gophers are now 10-4 on the season and may see a slight rankings boost when the new polls come out on Tuesday. The Gophers will continue their long road trip when they travel to San Diego for the San Diego Classic this weekend. Minnesota will once again be tested as they will face the Oregon State Beavers, San Diego State Aztecs, Long Beach State 49ers, UCLA Bruins, and the Colorado State Rams. The Beavers, 49ers, and Rams are all receiving votes in the most recent USA Today Poll, and the Bruins are currently undefeated and are the #3 ranked team in the nation.