The Minnesota Golden Gopher softball team took two out of three games this past weekend from the Penn State Nittany Lions at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The wins locked up the #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and a first round bye. The Gophers will play the winner of Wisconsin and Purdue on Friday morning in the quarterfinals.
The Gophers got off to a rough start on the weekend. Minnesota could not seem to get their offense clicking on 13th place Penn State. Minnesota took just a 1-0 lead into the 7th inning when the Nittany Lions would get to Gopher ace Amber Fiser. A walk, a double, and a rbi single tied the game at one and sent it to extra innings. Fiser would give up a solo home run to Penn State’s Tori Dubois in the top of the 8th, and Minnesota could not answer losing the game 2-1. The loss snapped the Gophers 14-game winning streak and 30-game home winning streak. To add insult to injury, the loss coupled with Michigan’s win over Ohio State clinched the regular season Big Ten title for the Wolverines, meaning the Gophers could only play for the #2 seed.
To say the Gophers were a bit frustrated going into Saturday’s game would be an understatement. The Gophers took out that frustration on Penn State starting pitcher Madison Shaffer. Shaffer would get just one out in the bottom of the first inning before getting yanked after giving up ten runs on five hits including a Kendyl Lindaman grand slam in her second at bat of the inning. Sidney Dwyer was just as mean to the next Nittany Lions pitcher hitting a bomb over the center field wall. Before all was said and done the Gophers had scored 11 runs in the bottom of the first inning. And that was nowhere near the end of the deluge. The Gophers would add three runs in the second, two more in the third, and another three in the fourth to win the run-rule shortened game 19-0. Fiser pitched the first two innings before giving way to Sydney Smith who would pick up the win in two innings of work. The win clinched the #2 seed in the Big Ten tournament for the Gophers with Sunday’s senior day yet to be played.
Minnesota honored their five seniors in Dani Wagner, Erika Rozell, Ellie Cowger, Sydney Dwyer, and Danielle Parlich before the game. Parlich would cap off her home career by going 2-3 with two runs scored and helping the Gophers to an easy 8-0 win. Junior Maddie Houlihan would put the final nail in the coffin with a two-run bomb in the bottom of the sixth inning to put the run-rule in effect and end the game. Fiser pitched fine innings and gave up just two hits in advancing her record to 25-9 on the season.
Houlihan would be named the Big Ten Player of the Week after going 9-18 on the week and knocking in 11 runs.
The Gophers will travel to Madison this weekend for the Big Ten Tournament. The winner of the tournament will receive the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota’s first game will be on Friday at 11AM when they take on the winner of #7 seed Wisconsin Badgers and #10 seed Purdue Boilermakers. Minnesota has won the last two Big Ten Tournaments. We will have a more in depth look at both the tournament and how Gophers look to sit in NCAA Tournament seeding later this week.