Minnesota’s streak snapped

The Gophers won two of three games against Nebraska over the weekend.

by Jack Satzinger

The Gophers combined for 16 runs in two contests at Nebraska on Friday and Saturday to win their 14th and 15th consecutive games.

But No. 12 Minnesota saw its record-breaking winning streak come to an end Sunday afternoon against the Cornhuskers, losing 5-3.

“It didn’t matter if we had a winning streak or not,” said senior infielder Tyler Walker, who went for 1-for-3 at the plate Sunday. “We lost, and it’s a really crappy feeling.”

Sophomore ace Sara Groenewegen started in the circle Sunday, but the Gophers (29-5, 5-1 Big Ten) defense was out of sorts early and Nebraska’s bats took advantage.

The Cornhuskers (18-14, 6-2 Big Ten) scored two unearned runs in the first inning off miscues from Gophers infielders.

“I just don’t think we took care of the ball like we should have. We didn’t make good throws; we didn’t play catch,” Walker said.

Minnesota’s defense shaped up as the game progressed, but Nebraska’s offense continued to find production.

Alicia Armstrong scored in the third inning off a Steph Pasquale hit to give the Cornhuskers a 3-1 advantage. Just when Minnesota started to gain momentum during different stretches of the game, the Cornhuskers made great defensive plays to end the inning.

The Gophers entered the final inning of the contest down 5-1 and felt like they had an opening to get back into the game.

“We were really excited to get up in the seventh inning and just put good at-bats together,” junior Paige Palkovich said. “We felt like we had been putting pretty good at-bats together all game, but some of them were getting caught.”

Palkovich hit a single in the seventh, which allowed freshmen Erika Rozell and Danielle Parlich to score.

“We’ll fight to the end even if the first couple innings don’t go our way,” Walker said. “We won’t go down without a fight, and I think that showed in the seventh inning.”

Minnesota showed some perseverance late, but the Gophers’ slow start did them in Sunday.

“We made some mental mistakes in the first inning that ended up giving them two runs,” head coach Jessica Allister said. “We got into a little bit of trouble early and couldn’t overcome it.” 

While Minnesota’s offense didn’t produce to its full potential on Sunday, it was plenty potent in the Gophers’ two victories earlier in the weekend.

Palkovich led the way on Friday with a team-high two hits, and as many runs batted in, to seal the one-run victory. On Saturday, the Gophers won by five runs behind multi-hit efforts from Walker, Groenewegen, Parlich and senior Kaitlyn Richardson.

Palkovich said Minnesota was able to go on its winning streak because of the players’ attention to detail.

“We were checked into every game,” Palkovich said. “We always try to make our team goal to win every pitch, win every inning.”

It wasn’t quite enough Sunday.

The loss not only marked the end of Minnesota’s winning streak, but also handed the Gophers their first loss of the conference season six games into Big Ten play.

“Nebraska is always a good team,” Palkovich said. “It’s always going to be a dogfight against them.”