The weather was pure garbage this weekend in Minnesota, but the spring sports schedule continued to march onward. The Minnesota Gophers were in action in softball, baseball, women’s golf, and track and field this past weekend and here is a look at how they faired.
The Gophers hosted rival Iowa Hawkeyes on the diamond at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium for an important three game series. Both teams were in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten Standings headed into the weekend with the Gophers at 6-6 and Iowa at 8-6. By the time the final out was recorded on Sunday, the Gophers had earned a hard fought sweep of Iow and had jumped into fourth place in the Big Ten at 9-6 with another crucial pair of games coming up on Tuesday in Madison.
The story of the weekend for the Gophers was ace pitcher Autumn Pease. She was dominant in the circle for the Gophers all three games, but got things started on the right foot with a four hit shutout of the Hawkeyes on Friday. Pease walked one and struck out ten Hawkeye batters. She had only one jam, a two on and one out spot in the top of the third inning but ended up getting a pair of groundouts to end the threat. Minnesota started the scoring in the bottom of the third on Natalie DenHartog’s 10th home run of the season that put the Gophers up 2-0.
The Gophers would put their other runs on the board in a four run 6th inning where they used four doubles and a two-run bomb by catcher Taylor Krapf to make a 2-0 lead a comfortable 6-0 lead.
Pease would strike out the final Hawkeye batter of the game in the falling snow to earn her fourth shutout of the season and first of the weekend.
She was back in the circle for game two in the series on Saturday, and it was more of the same. She would give up seven hits and walk a pair, but struck out 12 Iowa batters out of a possible 21 outs to earn back to back shutouts in a 3-0 Gophers win.
Minnesota got on the board early after Amani Bradley tripled in the top of the first down the first base line and would come around to score on Jess Oakland’s RBI single.
Bradley would be the offensive hero on the day for the Gophers earning the other two Minnesota RBI in the fifth inning when her single scored both pinch runner Delaney Cox and freshman outfielder Breezy Burnett to give Pease a 3-0 cushion. She wouldn’t need it as she struck out the side in the 6th and worked out of a bases loaded jam in the 7th but got the final out on a weak grounder to finish off the shutout. Pease now has five shutouts on the season.
Pease would not get the start in the series finale on Sunday as Minnesota’s #2 pitcher Jacie Hambrick got the start in the circle. She lasted four innings giving up two hits and striking out three. True freshman Sidney Schwartz came in and pitched a pair of shutout innings allowing just one hit. Then Bri Enter came in in the 7th inning and would be the first Gopher pitcher to give up a run all weekend as Iowa used a pair of singles and a passed ball to get a run and take a 1-0 lead to the bottom of the 7th inning.
The Gophers would not give up though and scratched back to get a run of their own to force extra innings. Maddie Ehlke led off the bottom of the inning with a double off the wall in left-center and would advance to third on a sac bunt. After a hit batter Kayla Chavez came to the plate for the Gophers and her fly ball to left field was deep enough to score Ehlke on the sacrifice fly and tie that game at 1. The Gophers would load the bases in the bottom of the seventh but could not get the winning run across so extra innings it was.
After a pair of shutout wins the Gophers hopes not to need to use Pease on Sunday, but there she was in the circle to pitch the top of the 8th inning. She would look jut as good as she did the two previous days allowing just one hit and striking out a pair in two innings of work. Minnesota would finally get the winning run across in the bottom of the 9th when Chavez would single, advance to second on a walk, then third on a wild pitch before Oakland’s sac fly to center would be deep enough to score her and give the Gophers the series sweep of the Hawkeyes. Pease would pick up the win in relief.
Pease no doubtedly will be named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week later this week when the awards are giving out after going 3-0 not allowing a run in 16 innings pitched and striking out 24 Hawkeye batters. She now has 206 strikeouts in 158 innings pitched this season and leads the Big Ten in K’s.
Minnesota heads to Madison on Tuesday for a doubleheader at Wisconsin that was postponed from last week due to weather. Minnesota is in fourth place in the conference with Wisconsin just one game back in 7th place, so these pair of games are critical for both teams. The Gophers then head to Columbus for a three game series at Ohio State this weekend who is also just behind the Gophers in the conference standings at 10-7.
Track and Field
The Gopher track and filed teams were spread between the Virginia Challenge on Friday and the LSU Alumni Gold Invite on Saturday this past weekend. The distance runners headed east, while the rest of the team headed south.
Between the two meets it was another great weekend for the Gophers as six different program top ten times/distances would be set by the Gophers men’s team. The Gopher men are ranked #22 in the nation and got a pair of school record setting performances from the men’s 4x100 relay team and junior Michael Buchanan in the 110 meter hurdles. The 4x100 relay team of Carlon Hosten, Kion Benjamin, Finn Schirmer and Devin Augustine broke the school record for the second time this season clocking in at 39.15. The time goes down as the No. 9 time in the NCAA this season and the No. 2 time in the Big Ten. Buchanan would break his own record for the THIRD time this season clocking a 13.75 time in the 110 meter hurdles. The time ranks Buchanan fourth in the Big Ten this season and tied for 17th in the NCAA West region. Schirmer would finish with the 8th best time in school history in the event clocking in at 14.28 seconds.
Hosten would continue his great weekend in baton Rouge by dropping the third-best time in program history in the 200m at 20.72.
In Virginia it was little brother Eli Hoeft earning some major family bragging rights in the 1500 meters this weekend. His massive lifetime best in the event by over two seconds moved him up to the #3 mark all time in Gopher history with a time of 3:40.42. In the process Hoeft passed both older brother Owen Hoeft (3:42.01, 2022) and his father Carson Hoeft (3:41.99, 1990) on Minnesota’s all-time top 10 list in the event. Hoeft’s time also catapults him to the No. 5 spot in the Big Ten this season and 16th in the NCAA West region.
Back in Baton Rouge is was a great day throwing for Minnesota’s Jake Kubiatowicz. He would set a lifetime best in the men’s hammer throw with a mark of 66.64m (218-7) to finish third overall in the event. It places Kubiatowicz at the No. 8 spot in Minnesota history and pushes him to the No. 4 spot in the Big Ten this year. Kubiatowicz paired his day in the hammer throw with a his second-best toss in the discus at 56.44m to place third in Baton Rouge and keeps him at the No. 5 spot in the Big Ten this season.
The Gophers also has several other great finishes on the weekend in both meets including Matt Wilkinson (5000m, 1st - 13:40.73), Taylor Kreitinger (3000m Steeplechase, No. 6 in Big Ten - 10:30.71), Shelby Frank (Unattached, Hammer, 2nd - 65.83m), Amira Young (100m, 7th - 11.31), Nyalaam Jok (High Jump, 2nd - 1.80m), Shelby Frank (Unattached, Discus, 2nd - 56.18m), Isaiah Schafer (Shot Put, 3rd - 18.69m), Michael Buchanan (Long Jump, 5th - 7.45m), Kion Benjamin (100m, 8th - 10.21), Austin Parsons (Javelin, 3rd - 62.97m) and Jayla Campbell (400m, 10th - 53.11). The Gophers return home to host the Running on Hope Open on Wednesday before the team heads to the Historic Drake Relays over the weekend in Des Moines.
The Gophers were competing at the Big Ten Championships at the Fox Chapel Gold Club in Pittsburgh over the weekend. The highlight was freshman Bella McCauley would would finish in a tie for second with Wisconsin’s Emily Lauterback at even par for the three round tournament. They were all playing for second place after Illinois’ Crystal Wang ran away with the tournament finishing -12 including an insane -9 62 in Sunday’s final round.
McCauly started her tournament with an even par round of 71 and the team struggled on the tough course to ninth place after the opening round at +17. Saturday’s second roun was even tougher with the Gophers slipping to 13th place after a +19 day. McCauley would slip as well dropping to a tie for 8th place after shooting a +3 74.
Sunday’s final round was moving day, and the Gophers and McCauley did just that. Minnesota would shoot their best score of the weekend as a team at +14 and would move back up into a 9th place fish at +50 for the tournament, two shots ahead of 10th place Nebraska.
McCauley would shoot up the leaderboard after shooting a -3 68 in what would be the second best round of the day behind Wang’s 62. She birdied the 18th hole to move into the tie for second. It’s the best finish of her career as a Gopher.
The rest of the Gophers in the field included senior Grace Curran who shot her best round of the tournament Sunday with a 2-over-par 73. She notched 29 pars and six birdies across the tournament scoring 76-81-73=230 (+17).
Luisamariana Mesones shot a 9-over-par 80 in the final round Sunday. She had a three-round score of 77-75-80=232 (+19) and ended the event tied for 52nd.
Senior Leah Herzog finished her final Big Ten Championship in a tie for 65th. Herzog totaled 34 pars which were tied for the 12th most and had a final score of 77-77-81= 235 (+22).
Junrui Chi finished alongside teammate Herzog in a tie for 65th scoring 80-78-77= 235 (+22)
Emma Carpenter ended Sunday shooting an 80 (+9) with eight pars and one birdie. Carpenter had a three-round score of 83-77-80=240 (+27) and finished in a tie for 80th.
The painful season for Gopher baseball continued this weekend as they were swept in a three game series at Illinois. They now drop to 10-27 overall and 4-8 in the Big Ten.
On Friday Minnesota and Illinois played a tight game until the Illini blew it open with four runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth to take an 8-0 lead. Starter Tucker Novotny got shelled in the fourth walking a pair of batters who would score on a pair of two run homers. Ben Shepard took the hill for the Gophers in the fifth and was no better allowing the Illini to score four more runs on a walk, single, double and home run. Minnesota would claw one back in the 7th, and got two more runs on a Brady Counsell two run home run in the 9th, but that’s as close as they would get falling 9-3.
Saturday the Gophers took a two run lead twice in the early portion of the game, but could not hang on as Illinois came back to earn a 5-3 win. George Klasssen went five innings allowing just two runs on three hits before the Illini got to Conner Wietgrefe in the 6th and seventh scoring a trio of runs off of him. Minnesota’s bats went cold getting just a pair of singles in the final six innings in the loss.
Sunday’s game looked like Minnesota might finally break through, but a painful blown save in the bottom of the 9th inning ended that hope. Minnesota took a 2-0 and 3-2 lead early in the game before it headed to the 9th tied at 3. In the top half if the inning the Gophers would push a pair of runs across capped by a Brett Bateman double. But in the bottom of the 9th Illinois would hit a pair of bombs off of Gopher closer Seth Clausen including a two-run walk-off shot by Illinois catcher Jacob Schroeder for his second homer of the game and give Illinois the 6-5 win.
Minnesota will try and regroup with a pair of home mid-week games this week against NDSU and St. Thomas on Tuesday and Wednesday at Siebert Field before they head to Lincoln for a three game series at Nebraska this weekend.