Minnesota softball sweeps Purdue during senior weekend

The Gophers bested Purdue by a total of 29-3 in their last Big Ten home series.

Gophers senior Sam Macken hits the ball against Purdue at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Saturday, April 30, 2017.

Carter Jones

Gophers senior Sam Macken hits the ball against Purdue at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Saturday, April 30, 2017.

Emily Polglaze

Four years of hard work culminated into one last home weekend could put pressure on any senior.

Minnesota softball’s veterans answered with a no-hitter, a grand slam and two additional solid performances on the mound in a weekend sweep of Purdue.

“Sometimes you worry that [the seniors] are going to put a little too much emphasis on it and put too much pressure on themselves,” said head coach Jessica Allister. “But to see them come out and have the performances they had, it was a lot of fun.”

The Gophers kicked off the celebratory weekend with a lights-out performance from Sara Groenewegen.

The senior threw her seventh career no-hitter Friday, the first of the season, and struck out 12.

Minnesota’s offense was sharp as it has been all season. Each game ended in a mercy rule with senior Sam Macken was a catalyst for the hot bats.

The No. 4 Gophers now have 21 mercy-rule wins this season

Macken had two home runs in Friday’s game, with one being a walk-off in an 8-0 victory for the Gophers.

She came up big again in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader when she stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the fourth with bases loaded and two outs for her last home at-bat.

Macken launched a blast straight back for a grand slam and put Minnesota up 12-0 in the 12-2 victory.

“It’s awesome. It was a fun day,” Macken said. “There was a lot of people out here to watch, and it just so happened to be a good time to get a hit like that.”

Senior transfer Tori Finucane, who is in her first and final season with Minnesota, saw time on the mound in both of Saturday’s games.

She came in for the final two outs of game one with one strikeout and closed out game two with a strikeout.

Minnesota scored in all but one inning of Saturday’s first 9-1 victory. Freshman Kendyl Lindaman led the charge at the plate with four RBIs.

Lindaman — the program’s leading home run scorer — added No. 17 and No.18 in the second game.

Junior Sydney Dwyer also hit one of her own in the bottom of the second inning, her ninth of the season.

Dwyer also recorded five RBIs on the day and is just five away from breaking the record for most in a single season — 74.

The Gophers got on base during Saturday’s games with bunts, passed balls and stolen bases.

Minnesota stole 10 bases during the day. The team only had 24 all season prior.

“We were just put in situations where we could use our speed,” Macken said. “We had a lot of base runners, and that allowed us to show the other team that we are fast.”

Minnesota is on a 19-game win streak, is one win away from tying a single-season record at 49 and has a two-game cushion in the Big Ten for its first outright regular-season title since 1991.

The Gophers are playing some of their best ball in years and for the seniors, it’s been a special ride.

“As a freshman, and even when I got recruited … it was a completely different looking team, a different culture,” Groenewegen said. “To be a part of that change and that flourishing team, it’s an honor. I’ve learned more about pride in these four years than I’ve learned in my entire life.”