A strong wind was blowing in from right field, but the one thing that blew out of left field — a Lara Severson homer — was the story Wednesday as the 16th-ranked Gophers softball team swept Northwestern 11-1 and 10-4.
Down 4-0 in the top of the fourth inning of game two, Severson, the designated player, drove in Shannon Beeler and Amber Hegland with the first home run of her career to bring the Gophers within 4-3.
The homer ignited Minnesota (33-8, 7-1 in the Big Ten) as it scored 10 unanswered runs to complete the doubleheader sweep.
Severson, who had 35 career at bats before she was moved into the lineup a week ago because of injuries, has gone 7-for-16 with 10 RBIs in the last seven games.
In Wednesday’s doubleheader, the junior form LeSueur, Minn., was 3-for-6 with seven RBIs and three runs scored. As expected, she was all smiles after belting the important homer.
“My first one ever. I feel great,” Severson said. “I’m feeling relaxed at the plate now, and like Coach B (head coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien) said, we have to go up there with a plan and know what pitch to take, so that’s what I’ve been concentrating on.”
In the first game, Steph Klaviter dominated the Wildcats (22-11, 5-3) with a mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches. She went five innings and gave up five hits as she improved her record to 11-5.
The offense immediately jumped on the Wildcats’ pitching for one run in the first, four in the second and six in the fourth. Every Gophers starter scored, and the game ended after five innings when the 10-run rule took effect.
The big hitters were Severson, who lined a three-run double down the left field line, and Laura Peters, who hit a two-run double to left center.
“Our women were really aggressive at the plate and they hit the ball real hard,” Bernstein-O’Brien said.
However, the aggressiveness and hard hitting didn’t show up for a while in game two, as the Wildcats put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning.
Wildcats starting pitcher Jenni Beseres, a native of Golden Valley, Minn., who was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week last week, blew the ball by the Gophers for the first three innings, grunting with every pitch.
Gophers catcher Erin Brophy, Beseres’ battery-mate on a Golden Valley summer team for six years, hit a 3-2 change-up from Beseres off the left-field wall for a double.
Brophy and Beseres, who are best friends, had a couple of good duels as Brophy fouled off eight pitches in two different at bats. She finished 1-for-3 with a walk.
Senior pitcher Wendy Logue overcame a rocky start, and settled down after giving up four runs in the first three innings. She won her 13th straight decision to run her record to 14-2.
Minnesota has won 19 of its last 20, and took over sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, one-half game behind Michigan.
The No. 2 Wolverines come to town for a three game series with the Gophers this weekend. That will prove to be a big test for Bernstein-O’Brien’s club.
“We’re in control of our own destiny, and we can play with the best of them,” she said. “I’m excited to have Michigan come to town.”