Minnesota sweeps Wisconsin in border battle doubleheader

The Gophers won 8-2 and 10-3 on Wednesday in Madison, Wisconsin.

Freshman Natalie Denhartog hits the ball on Friday, March 29 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis. The Gophers beat the Purdue Boilermakers 5-1.

Tony Saunders

Freshman Natalie Denhartog hits the ball on Friday, March 29 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis. The Gophers beat the Purdue Boilermakers 5-1.

Erik Nelson

When Minnesota needed offense, two Gophers’ outfielders delivered against Wisconsin on Wednesday.

Left fielder Natalie DenHartog and right fielder Maddie Houlihan each hit two home runs as No. 16 Minnesota (34-10, 15-1) swept Wisconsin (33-10, 10-7) on Wednesday. The Gophers won game one 8-2 and game two 10-3.

DenHartog’s grand slam in the sixth inning of game two extended Minnesota’s lead to 10-3. DenHartog leads the team with 14 home runs and is tied for fourth all-time in Gophers history for home runs in a single season.

Houlihan said DenHartog crushed the ball.

“That’s probably one of the farthest balls I’ve ever seen hit,” Houlihan said. “She’s doing an amazing job of swinging at good pitches and giving us a chance to win by putting runs up on the board.”

Minnesota scored five runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth after trailing 3-1 entering the fifth inning. Pitcher Amber Fiser won her 21st game of the season. Fiser struck out 10 Badgers players and allowed three runs and three hits.

DenHartog said the Gophers stuck to their plan even though Minnesota trailed entering the fifth inning.

“We had good preparation going into that game and had a good feel for what their pitcher was going to throw,” DenHartog said. “We needed to get aggressive. We were timid in the first couple of innings, but our coaches reminded us to hunt what we were looking for and pull the trigger. We did a good job of that.”

Houlihan leads Gophers to victory in game one

Houlihan hit a pair of two-run home runs in the first game of the doubleheader: one in the third inning and one in the fifth inning. She has now hit five home runs this season. DenHartog smashed a solo shot in the sixth inning.

Houlihan said the Gophers came prepared to play the Badgers.

“We put up a lot of runs up today to give our pitchers the support that they needed,” Houlihan said. “Going into Wisconsin and doing it on [its] home field is fun.”

Fiser threw four innings and struck out 10, allowing only one hit and one run. Pitcher Sydney Smith took over for Fiser in the fifth inning, striking out two while allowing one hit and one run.

Minnesota has six games remaining on its regular-season schedule, all six being at home. The Gophers face Iowa (17-25, 3-13) Friday-Sunday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Friday’s game begins at 6 p.m., Saturday’s game begins at 1 p.m. and Sunday’s game begins at noon.

Head coach Jamie Trachsel said it will be nice for Minnesota to close out the regular season in front of a crowd of Gophers fans.

“We’ve traveled a lot,” Trachsel said. “It’s gone back and forth. This is a tough stretch. We had a tough Nebraska series. We knew it would be a challenge. I was proud of how we approached today with our attitude and our energy and how we responded throughout the games. To take care of business through that tough stretch and finish at home is huge. We’re excited to play in front of our fans.”