It was a very long weekend thanks to the awful weather Madison, Wisconsin provided but when all was said and done the Minnesota Golden Gophers softball team defeated three opponents, and the elements to win the 2018 Big Ten Softball Tournament! The win is the third consecutive Big Ten Tournament title for Minnesota, and four of the last five. The Gophers will receive the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The pairings will be announced at 9PM on Sunday.
The Gophers took on #7 seed Wisconsin in Friday’s quarterfinal, and it will go down as a game to be remembered. Not so much for the play on the field, but the length and type of the delays. The Gophers scored a quick two runs in the bottom of the first inning before the first rain delay. That delay lasted 12 minutes. The teams took the field and only got sinx more minutes of play in before the umpires once again called the teams off of the field for a rain delay. This one would be significantly longer—4:50 exact. The Gophers would score two more runs in the second to take a 4-0 lead. The teams would once again be called off of the field in the bottom of the fourth inning—this time for a “chopper delay”. Yes, seriously.
The Gophers would add one more run in the fifth and one in the sixth to close out the game 6-0 over eight and a half hours after the first pitch. Makenna Partain led the Gophers going 3-4 with three runs scored an a rbi. Maddie Houlihan added a 2-4 with 2 rbi and a run scored performance as well. Amber Fiser gave up just two hits over four innings to get the win, while Sydney Smith pitched the last three innings to pick up her second save on the season.
The Gophers would play the #3 seed Indiana Hoosiers in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon. Once again the weather would have a large impact. The Gophers would plate three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Partian would knock in two runs on a single and the third run would score on a passed ball. The Gophers would hang onto that 3-0 lead after four innings. Fiser gave up two hits to start the top of the fifth inning, and then the rains came. The delay would be 1:45 this time and after the delay Fiser was not nearly as sharp and the Hoosiers took advantage. After an error and two more walks, Fiser was lifted for Smith. The Hoosiers would get a double off of Smith and would eventually score four runs in the inning to take a 4-3 lead after four and a half innings.
The Gophers would waste no time striking back. After a Houlihan single and a sac bunt and a walk, Danielle Parlich would rip a single to score Houlihan to tie the game. Dani Wagner would score after the Indiana catcher picked up an error by throwing the ball into Wagner’s leg and it bounced away to put Minnesota back ahead at 5-4.
Minnesota would add another four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Gophers started single, single, double, single to put the game away. Smith shut down the Hoosiers the rest of the way and the Gophers were back in the Championship game with a 9-4 win.
One more time the weather played havoc with the schedule as the championship game would need to be postponed from Saturday night to Sunday morning due to storms.
The Gophers would take on the Northwestern Wildcats in the title game. Northwestern threw a no-hitter in the semifinals against #8 seed Michigan State who upset the #1 seed Michigan Wolverines in the quarterfinals.
Minnesota would be the road team for the game and wasted absolutely no time getting off to a great start. after a Partain walk, Big Ten Player of the Year Kendyl Lindaman doubled her in to put the Gophers up 1-0. After a Houlihan single, the Gophers executued a double steal with Lindaman scoring. Wagner would then hit a two-run homer to put the Gophers up 4-0 after the first inning. Minnesota added two more in the second on a Elle Jensen single, a Lindaman double, and a Houlihan triple to make the score 6-0 after an inning in a half.
Northwestern would strike back in their half of the second inning. The Wildcats would score three runs on three hits and a wild pitch to cut the lead to 6-3. The Gophers responded again with two more runs in the third after a Wagner triple and an Allie Arneson two-run bomb to make it 8-3. After a double and a walk in the bottom of the inning, Gopher coach Jamie Trachsel decided to make a pitching change again and Smith replaced Fiser one more time. It worked as Smith got out of the inning without any runs scoring.
Minnesota would add one more run in the fourth inning and the Wildcats would add single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but it would not be nearly enough as the Gophers cruised to their third consecutive Big Ten Tournament Championship.
Makenna Partain, Kendyl Lindaman, Maddie Houlihan and Dani Wagner were all named to the All-Tournament Team. Houlihan was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after going 7-9 with four runs scored, five rbi and three walks during the tournament.
The Gophers received the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but would have gotten in regardless of today’s game. Coming into the tournament the Gophers were 28th in the RPI, so even though they were flawless over the weekend, it most likely will not be enough to get them into a position to host a regional. The Gophers will most likely be a #2 seed at a regional with top-seed in the 7-14 range when the NCAA pairings are announced Sunday night at 9PM on ESPN2.
We will provide information on the Gophers regional location once in it announced Sunday night.