Gophers sweep Saturday, lose in extra innings Sunday

The Gophers reached 20 wins Saturday in their 29th game — their fastest start since 2002.

Gophers freshman Kaitlyn Richardson prepares to run to second base during a Sunday afternoon game against Nebraska. Richardson went 6-for-12 with seven runs, six RBIs and two home runs.

Gophers freshman Kaitlyn Richardson prepares to run to second base during a Sunday afternoon game against Nebraska. Richardson went 6-for-12 with seven runs, six RBIs and two home runs.

Betsy Helfand

 

Minnesota took two of three games from Nebraska this weekend in its first home series of the year at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

The Gophers (21-10, 3-3 Big Ten) swept a Saturday doubleheader before dropping the third game of the series 5-4 in extra innings to the Huskers (21-14, 4-2 Big Ten) on Sunday.

Head coach Jessica Allister said the team lacked on Sunday the aggression that helped it win both of Saturday’s games.

“We got timid in the box, we weren’t taking our hacks, and all of a sudden, we’re down in the count,” Allister said. “It’s hard to hit good pitching when you’re down in the count.”

Nebraska pitcher Ashley Hagemann allowed just one run in 5.2 innings while striking out 11 Sunday after giving up 13 runs in Saturday’s first game.

After the Huskers scored two runs in the first inning Sunday, the Gophers bounced back with a Kari Dorle single.

They took a one-run lead in the third, gave up two runs in the fifth and tied the game up again in the sixth with a home run from Tyler Walker.

Gophers’ starter Sara Moulton walked the leadoff batter in the eighth inning, and she came around to score after a solid base hit by Nebraska shortstop Mattie Fowler. 

“Walks and defensive miscues will kill you, and that’s what killed us,” Allister said. “We can’t put people on base.”

Nebraska proved that Saturday when it surrendered 15 walks, hit three batters and committed six errors in its two losses.

Allister said Saturday that the games were “two great wins,” both because of the competition and because of the comeback the team mounted in its second game.

The Huskers entered the weekend on a nine-game winning streak. They defeated then-No. 8 Arizona and then-No. 11 Missouri earlier this season.

“Nebraska is a very, very good team, so it’s huge to know that we can compete at that level,” Allister said after Saturday’s games.

The Huskers jumped out to a five-run lead in the first inning of Saturday’s second game, but Gophers pitchers Alissa Koch and Kelsey Kimminau held them scoreless for the rest of the game in the Gophers’ 8-5 win.

“It’s huge to see our team come from behind,” Allister said. “That shows a lot of character.”

Koch pitched 5.1 innings and allowed all five runs in the first but held the Huskers scoreless the rest of the way.

“She was throwing too many strikes,” Allister said. “[Pitching coach Piper Ritter] talked to her about [getting] the ball off the plate a little. … She made that adjustment and did a nice job.”

Minnesota mounted a five-run comeback in the fourth inning that was highlighted by Kaitlyn Richardson’s three-run home run.

All five of the fourth-inning runs, as well as two other runs, came with two outs.

“We talk about how you only get 21 outs, and you never want to give those away,” Allister said. “As long as you have an out, as long as you have life left, then you have something you can give.”

Nebraska and Minnesota each committed three errors in the Gophers’ first Saturday game, a 13-7 win.

Richardson went 4-for-5 with three RBIs. She hit a high, towering solo home run that cleared the center-field fence in the third inning.

She went 6-for-12 on the weekend with two home runs, six RBIs and seven runs scored.

“I take extra swings throughout the week, and when I step in the box, it’s just time to play and have fun and have everything pay off that we work for during the week,” Richardson said.

The Gophers will return to action Friday to begin a three-game set against Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.

Notes 

University President Eric Kaler threw out the first pitch of Saturday’s first game.