The historic 2019 season for Minnesota Golden Gophers softball came to a close on Saturday as Minnesota lost 5-3 to the Washington Huskies in a loser’s bracket game at the Women’s College World Series. Minnesota ends their season with a 46-14 record.
The Gophers once again got off to a slow start against the Huskies just like they did against UCLA in their opening game. Minnesota was the home team in the game, and it took just two batters for the Gophers to play from behind on Saturday. After striking out All-American shortstop Sis Bates to start the game, Amber Fiser gave up a solo home run to deep centerfield to Morganne Flores to make it 1-0 Washington. Fiser again struggled with her control of her offspeed pitches like she did in the first game, and an error, a walk and a wild pitch would plate the Huskies a second run making it 2-0 after the top of the first.
The Gophers would need to face Washington All-American pitcher Gabbie Plain who was 23-2 coming into the game. She was effective early sending the Gophers down in order in the first two innings. Minnesota finally got some offense going in the bottom of the third inning with a single by catcher Emma Burns. She would score all the way from first when Carlie Brandt ripped a double off of the wall in right center field, and the Gophers cut the lead to 2-1 after three innings.
Washington would strike right back in the top of the fourth. Fiser gave up a pair of singles and a double to allow the third Washington run. After a walk, the bases were loaded with only one out. Fiser would get a force at home for out #2, and then Minnesota coach Jamie Trachsel would pull her and put in senior Sydney Smith into the circle. She would get a Washington pinch hitter to strike out and get Minnesota out of a jam allowing just one run in the fourth.
Neither team would do anything more in the bottom of the fourth and the fifth inning and then the game would be delayed for over three hours due to rain and lightening. When Washington came back up to bat in the top of the sixth, they would extend their lead to four. Washington would load the bases with no outs after an error and a pair of singles. Minnesota got a huge double play when Flores ripped a liner to Makenna Partain at second who flipped to short to get the force there. But the next batter would rip a double into the gap scoring two to make it 5-1 Huskies.
It would remain 5-1 until the bottom of the seventh when the Gophers put together one last rally to try and extend their season. Natalie Denhartog singled to start the inning, and was left on first after the next two batters got out. Taylor Chell pinched hit and was walked, and then Ali Lindner was walked to load the bases. Brandt would come through once again with another double, this time down the right field line, scoring two runs to make it 5-3 Huskies. The Gophers had the tying run on second base, and Washington went to the bullpen to bring in Taren Alvelo their other star pitcher to face Partain. It would be the right choice as Partain struck out and the Gophers season came to an end.
The Huskies would go on to eliminate Oklahoma State Saturday night before losing to UCLA on Sunday on a Rachel Garcia three run homer to end their season. UCLA will face Oklahoma in the best-of-three Championship Finals beginning on Monday night.
While this season was historic for Minnesota, the potential for the 2020 season should be thrilling to Gophers fans. Minnesota will lose a few everyday players to graduation in Maddie Houlihan and Allie Arneson, and they lose their #2 pitcher in Smith. But the Gophers have a good recruiting class incoming including high school All-American SS in Delanie Cox from Colorado, and a star pitcher from Canada named Kianna Jones. Add that to the return of speedy center fielder Ellee Jensen who missed almost the entire season due to a foot injury, and Minnesota will have several high quality additions to a roster that returns Fiser, DenHartog, Hope Brandner, and Partain.
Congrats to the Gophers for an amazing season, and here is hopes to an even better 2020!