Minnesota goes 1-2 in first weekend of Big Ten play

Gophers earned their lone conference victory on Sunday versus Northwestern.

MaKenna Partain swings at a pitch during a game against Northwestern on April 15, 2017 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Image by Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

MaKenna Partain swings at a pitch during a game against Northwestern on April 15, 2017 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

by Drew Cove

Minnesota started off slow in Big Ten play but capped off the weekend with its first conference win of the season.

The Gophers (18-13, 1-2 Big Ten) played close against Northwestern (19-9, 2-1 Big Ten) from Drysdale Field in Evanston, Illinois with a 3-2 loss Friday, an 11-10 loss in extras Saturday and an 8-0 victory Sunday.

“We put ourselves in a position to win our first two games going into the seventh inning,” head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “There’s still the difference between being in that situation and finishing.”

The Gophers had a victory versus Northwestern on Saturday well in hand — until the bottom of the seventh inning.

It would take until the final frame for Northwestern to get on the board, but the Wildcats tallied three runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with a victory.

Pitcher Amber Fiser threw a four-hit, scoreless game until the last frame. She allowed four hits in the seventh and one earned run, with an error accounting for the other two runs.

Second baseman MaKenna Partain got the Gophers on the board after the team had been threatening to score since the start of the second inning. Partain scored the two runners for an early lead. Partain said, the team was in control of the games over the weekend much of the time, even though they finished 1-2 in the series.

“If we would have had just a few things more go our way, we think that we would have been 3-0 in this series,” Partain said. 

Saturday’s high-scoring battle:

The Gophers and the Wildcats kept it close yet again Saturday, with offense taking hold in Minnesota’s extra-inning 11-10 loss to Northwestern.

Minnesota got out to an early lead and scored eight runs through the first four innings, while Northwestern had seven. The later part of the match took the team to extras as the game was tied 9-9 after a two-run comeback seventh inning from the Wildcats. In the eighth inning, Minnesota got one run while Northwestern sent home two for the extra-inning victory.

Fiser made the start for the second consecutive day but gave up three runs in her one inning, which gave way for Sydney Smith to pitch three innings and Carlie Brandt to come in and finish the game with 3 2-3 innings in the loss.

The offensive strength of the team showed in the loss, though, with catcher Kendyl Lindaman finding her stride with two home runs and four runs batted in for the game. She now has 11 home runs. Last season she had 20.

The Gophers Sunday blowout:

Minnesota got its first conference victory in the series finale. Gophers padded an early 8-0 lead that held through the final. The game ended after five innings thanks to the eight-run rule.

“It felt really great,” third baseman Danielle Parlich said. “I was seeing the ball really well and just wound up being aggressive and it worked.”

Parlich had four runs batted in for the game, the most on the team.

Fiser — in her third consecutive start — shut the door early, allowing no runs and two hits through five innings. She earned her 12th victory of the season.

After the win in the finale, the Gophers come back to the Twin Cities and will stay there for the weekend with their first home series of the season against Illinois.

“Our fans are excited to see these kids, the kids are excited to play at home,” Trachsel said. “For me, I’m actually just excited to get back on the field and get tested.”