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Minnesota Softball: Gophers Sweep Michigan to Finish in 3rd Place in Big Ten

Minnesota gets a bye into the Big Ten Quarterfinals on Thursday

Autumn Pease should be the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year
Kelly Hagenson—

The hottest team on the University of Minnesota campus stayed hot this past weekend as the Minnesota Gophers softball team swept a three-game series from the Michigan Wolverines to complete the Big Ten Regular Season this weekend. Minnesota finished in third place in the conference, one game back of second place Indiana and will be the #3 seed at the Big Ten Tournament this week in Champaign, Illinois. The Gophers earned a bye into the quarterfinals of the single-elimination tournament and will face the winner of Rutgers and Ohio State Thursday morning.

Minnesota had a chance to try and take second place from the Hoosiers this weekend if Indiana slipped at Michigan State, but Indiana would also earn a three-game sweep. Thus, Minnesota was just playing for pride, and boy did they show it.

Friday and Sunday were the Autumn Pease show once again for the Gophers. On Friday Pease allowed just a pair of singles to the Wolverines as she dominated through seven shutout innings. Pease struckout seven Michigan batters and faced just two batters over the minimum in leading he Gophers to a 3-0 win. The Gophers offense was sparked in the fourth inning by a pair of singles by Natalie DenHartog and Taylor Krapf and Den hartog would score on a Maddie Ehlke sac fly. The Gophers added a pair more in the 6th inning on back to back homeruns from Sydney Strelow and Elhke to make it 3-0 which was more than enough for Pease.

Saturday’s game was all offense from both teams. Minnesota would take a 9-1 lead after two innings but the Wolverines would come back and plate eight runs in the top of the fourth to jump ahead 10-9. Minnesota countered with three more in the bottom of the fourth to regain the lead and add one more in the 5th to close out a crazy 13-10 win.

Minnesota’s offense came from the bat of Krapf who went 2-3 with two home runs and six RBI. Add in a 3-4 day from freshman shortstop Jess Oakland who hit a home run and a double of her own and knocked in four more runs. Den Hartog hit the 70th home run of her career in the 5th inning to close out the scoring. The Gophers pitching staff didn’t have the best day with the exception of freshman Sydney Schwartz who entered the game in the fourth inning in relief and would earn the win closing out the Wolverines with 3.2 shutout innings, giving up one hit, no walks and striking out one.

The Gophers celebrated senior day on Sunday honoring Pease, Den Hartog and outfielder Amani Bradley and once again Pease stole the show. The Wolverines would get five hits off of Autumn, but once again would not get a single runner home. It was a senior special all the way around as Bradley would score the first run of the game in the first inning after a double and a Oakland RBI single to make it 1-0.

The Gophers would score their second run in the bottom of the fifth inning after Claire Ceynowa pinch hit for Breezy Burnett and was hit by a pitch. Burnett reentered the game to run for Cenowa and advanced to second on a Kayla Chavez single. She then used her incredible speed to score from second with a gorgeous slide on a single by Bradley to make it 2-0.

Pease put the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh inning after a leadoff single but would retire the side with a groundout and two more strikeouts to finish off the sweep and her 25th win of the season.

The Gophers will enter the Big Ten Tournament on a 12-game winning streak and as winners of 16 of their last 17 games. In that stretch Pease has allowed one run in 56 innings pitched and is 10-0. She will most likely be named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year later this week after ending the regular season leading the conference in wins (25), ERA (1.31), strikeouts (243), strikeouts looking (62), and shutouts (8).

Minnesota earned a first round bye with their #3 seed and will either face #11 Rutgers or #6 Ohio State in a Quarterfinal matchup at 11 AM Thursday morning. Minnesota went 3-0 sweeping the Buckeyes in Columbus this season and did not face Rutgers. If Minnesota advanced they will most likely face #2 seed Indiana in the semifinal who they went 2-1 against this season. The full Big Ten Tournament bracket is below. Every single game of the Big Ten Tournament will be broadcast by Big Ten Network.