The Minnesota Golden Gophers softball team has struggled against top ranked opponents so far this season. Minnesota’s best win so far in 2018 had been a win over the then #23 Kentucky Wildcats. However, that all was blown out of the water Wednesday night when the Gophers upset the #9 Arizona Wildcats on their own field in Tucson, Arizona 1-0 in eight innings. The win moves the Gophers to 15-10 on the season while Arizona drops to 21-3.
It was a classic pitching duel between the two teams. Sophomore ace Amber Fiser was in the circle for the Gophers and was on fire. She gave up five hits and struck out eight batters in her eight innings. The Gophers fought off three challenging innings from the Wildcats during the game. In the second inning Gopher second baseman Makenna Partain couldn’t handle a throw and the Wildcats had two on with two out, but Fiser got the next batter to ground out to Partain the inning. In the third inning the Wildcats nearly struck again. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with two outs but once again Fiser got the last batter out—this time on her first strikeout of the game. The Wildcats tried one last time to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when a leadoff single put a runner on. She would advance to second on a sacrifice bunt and then to third on a wild pitch putting the winning run 60 feet away. After an intentional walk to set up the double play opportunity Fiser would battle back to strike out the next batter and then get an infield pop up to send the game to extra innings.
Arizona’s pitcher Alyssa Denham was just as good through seven innings. She allowed just three hits and struck out seven batters through the regulation seven innings. Minnesota never got more than one runner on base until the top of the eighth inning. Gopher center fielder Ellee Jensen led off the top of the 8th with a single which sent Denham to the showers. Arizona brought in Taylor McQuillin to pitch. After Jensen advanced to second on a passed ball Partain hit a ground ball that would go right through the legs of the Wildcat second baseman and Jensen would come around to score. McQuillin would retire the next three batters to end the inning, but it would be enough for Minnesota. Fiser would strike out the first two batters of the bottom of the eighth before getting a groundout to end the game.
Minnesota will finish the non-conference portion of their schedule with a three game series at New Mexico State this weekend. The Gophers will begin Big Ten play next weekend with a three game set at Northwestern.