Gophers take two out of three at Illinois

Minnesota generated their runs through the long ball, hitting eight home runs in the series.

<p>Infielder Hope Brandner catches the ball for an out on Friday, March 29 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis. The Gophers beat the Purdue Boilermakers 5-1.</p>

Tony Saunders

Infielder Hope Brandner catches the ball for an out on Friday, March 29 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis. The Gophers beat the Purdue Boilermakers 5-1.

Paul Hodowanic

The Gophers’ softball team traveled to Illinois over the weekend, riding a six-game winning streak and looking for their third consecutive Big Ten sweep. While the Gophers failed to complete the sweep, the team took two out of three from the Fighting Illini, boosting their conference record to 8-1. 

Minnesota started the weekend decisively with a 5-0 victory Friday. Amber Fiser won her 16th game of the season, pitching a seven-inning shutout and allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out nine.

Hope Brandner hit a three-run home run in the top of the first, her 10th of the season, giving the team an early lead. Katelyn Kemmetmueller added another run in the fourth with a solo shot and then drove in the final RBI of the game in the seventh inning on a single.

Due to inclement weather, the final game of the series on Sunday was moved to Saturday for a double header.

In the first game of the day, the Gophers saw their winning streak end at seven as Illinois hit a walk-off home run in the eighth inning to win 4-3.

Trailing 2-0 heading into the sixth inning, the Gophers began to rally. Natalie DenHartog lined a single into center field, bringing in one run. In the seventh, Minnesota added another run as Allie Arneson reached home on a wild pitch. Heading into extra innings tied at two, Brandner hit her second home run of the series to put the Gophers up by one. Minnesota looked to close it out in the eighth but saw their lead disappear when Illinois’ Katie Wingerter hit a two-run home run to win the game. 

The Gophers were forced to rebound quickly as they began their second game shortly after the first. The team answered the call, plating five runs in the first inning on its way to a 10-3 victory and series win.

“We responded back like a punch,” Brandner said. “We realized that our energy and our momentum going into that last game wasn’t how we wanted it to be. We all grouped up together and said, ‘They got that one from us and we are going to come back, fight and do everything we can to score as many runs as possible and win the series.'”

Brandner started the scoring again in the first with a two-run home run, which began their power surge as the team hit five home runs in the game. Josey White, Maddie Houlihan, Emma Burns and Kemmetmueller all saw a ball go over the fence in the game. 

“We squared up a lot of balls and got on time with a few other ones,” head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “[Illinois’] field plays for extra long balls which I think you saw from both teams.”

Brandner and Kemmetmueller led the team at the plate all series long. Brandner finished the series with three home runs, six RBIs and four walks. Kemmetmueller added two home runs and three RBIs.

“[Brandner] has been so steady consistently for us in every single area. She had some of her biggest hits for us this weekend,” Trachsel said. “[Kemmettmueller]’s a grinder… you always know she’s going to battle. She had a very good weekend for us all around. 

The Gophers return home for a mid-week matchup against South Dakota State at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium Wednesday, April 10 at 4 p.m.