The Minnesota Golden Gophers only needed to win one of two games against the Georgia Bulldogs Monday afternoon to qualify for their first ever home NCAA Super Regional. They are nothing but efficient. The Gophers crushed Georgia 8-1 on the backs of an early three run home run by freshman Natalie DenHartog and surprise surprise, another amazing pitching performance by Amber Fiser. Minnesota will host their first ever home Super Regional against #10 seed LSU beginning on Friday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
The Gophers were the road team in the game against the Bulldogs due to an NCAA rule about teams having an even number of potential at-bats in a regional. That didn’t bother Minnesota at all who went out and took the lead right away and never looked back. Makenna Partain walked and advanced to second on an error on a Maddie Houlihan sac bunt attempt. After Hope Brandner got out it was time for the NCAA Top Ten Finalist for Freshman of the Year to step up. DenHartog fouled a pitch off down the right field line that looked like it easily could have been the second out of the inning, but no Georgia player could corral it and it fell harmlessly to the turf. She did not waste her second chance and on the very next pitch ripped a high fastball off the light pole in right center field to give the Gophers an early 3-0 lead!
Natalie DenHartog hits it off the light pole!#NCAASoftball | @GopherSoftball pic.twitter.com/wzcUZMsk5O— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 20, 2019
Minnesota made some great plays in the field too. Georgia got the leadoff batter to second base with no outs after a Fiser throwing error. But that did not last long as the next batter flew out to left field. The Georgia runner attempted to tag up and take third base, and Gopher left fielder Carlie Brandt was having none of that.
Nope, you don't want to run on Carlie Brandt either. ♀️#NCAASoftball | @GopherSoftball pic.twitter.com/JUAr2meEbA— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 20, 2019
The Gophers would extend their lead with a four spot in the top of the third inning. After a Brandner walk DenHartog remained hot and ripped a double to the wall in left field to put runners on second and third with zero outs. Another walk loaded the bases and then senior Allie Arneson chipped a single to the outfield to score Brandner and make it 4-0. Georgia pulled their starting pitcher, but it wouldn’t stop the onslaught. Anne Miller would pinch hit for Ali Lindner and come through in a big way with a 2 RBI single to right to make it 6-0.
Bases juiced and Anne Miller delivers #NCAASoftball | @GopherSoftball pic.twitter.com/e4uAxROoB3— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 20, 2019
After another walk to load the bases Georgia picked Lindner off of second base but she remained in a pickle long enough to let Arneson race home from third to score before Lindner was tagged out. The inning was over, but the rout was on as Minnesota led 7-0.
Georgia would score their only run in the fifth inning after a walk, a hit batter and a single, but Fiser would end the inning with a big strikeout to cut the momentum off. Minnesota would add one more insurance run in the sixth on a Partain single and then a Brandner single to knock her in to make it 8-1. Fiser closed out the Bulldogs striking out the final batter to clinch the regional and keep Minnesota at home for at least two more games.
Amber Fiser...Minnesota...YOU'RE HOSTING SUPERS!#NCAASoftball | @GopherSoftball pic.twitter.com/OBCUxe97yj— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 20, 2019
With that strikeout the party was on in Stadium Village!
CUE THE ROUSER!! pic.twitter.com/GxFIehxVDY— Minnesota Softball (@GopherSoftball) May 20, 2019
Not only is Fiser a monster in the circle...but she is quick on her heels as shown here!
Some impressive teamwork to save the ESPN headset before the gatorade bucket dump pic.twitter.com/hzmMdJ1Fiy— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 20, 2019
The Gophers now turn to another tough SEC team. The Gophers will host #10 seed LSU Tigers beginning Friday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. it is the first time Minnesota will host a home Super Regional and will be only the Gophers second ever appearance in the Super Regionals. Minnesota played #1 overall seed Oregon in Eugene in 2014 and were swept in two games.
Minnesota has fared well in the recent past against LSU. Both times Minnesota faced the Tigers were in Baton Rouge and the Gophers got two shutout wins, 1-0 in 2014 and 3-0 in 2017. The Gophers will look for more success beginning Friday as they try and qualify for their first ever trip to the College World Series.
Game time and TV information is still to be announced but the Gophers and Tigers will open up the best-of-three series on Friday in Minneapolis. Game two will be Saturday, and Game three will be Sunday if needed.
We will have a full preview of the Super Regional matchup against LSU later this week. Congrats to the Gophers!!