Gophers sweep the Terrapins in first Big Ten series of the year

Saturday’s 19-run outburst tied the program record for runs scored in a Big Ten game.

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

Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

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

Paul Hodowanic

The Gophers (22-9, 3-0) ended their spring break trip in Maryland (16-15, 0-3) taking on the Terrapins in their first Big Ten matchup of the season. Minnesota’s start to conference play was a success, as it swept the three-game series, outscoring Maryland 30-13. 

The Gophers tripped out of the gates on Friday when Maryland jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead after one inning. Minnesota inched closer in the third when Maddie Houlihan doubled and brought MaKenna Partain home. The teams traded runs in the fifth inning, leaving the score at 4-2 going into the sixth. 

In the sixth, the Gophers pounced on the Terrapins, loading the bases with one out and Houlihan at the plate. Houlihan changed the game with one swing, belting a grand slam home run which put the Gophers in front 6-4 and tied her career-best with five RBI’s in the game.

“Maddie comes alive, especially in the Big Ten,” head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “She had a great weekend for us and she’s clutch. She finds a way to do her job and come up with big hits in big moments and none bigger than that for this team this year.”

Maryland got a run across in the bottom of the inning, but Sydney Smith slammed the door shut in the seventh to give the Gophers the win. 

Saturday’s game provided a different narrative as the Gophers jumped on Maryland from the beginning. They scored four in the first inning before the first out was even recorded, and Natalie DenHartog smashed a grand slam for her 10th home run of the year. DenHartog finished the game 3-4 and six RBIs.

Minnesota filled the stat sheet, plating a run in every inning, including five in the third and six in the fourth. The Gophers went on to win the game 19-5 in just five innings on 15 hits and 14 walks. 

“We talked a lot about winning pitches,” Trachsel said. “It was probably one of our best performances of the year when it came to being patient and balanced but being aggressive when the balls were over the plate. You don’t put up 19 runs just by hitting.” 

The scoring outburst tied the program record for most runs in a Big Ten game, falling short of the all-time record of 20. Partain etched her name in the record book as well, as she set the program record and tied the Big Ten record for most runs scored in a game with five. 

“I was looking to attack strikes that were over the heart of the plate,” Partain said. “My swing felt pretty good. … Just knowing that I had to do whatever to get on base for my team and make it work was my strategy.”

Partain began the series by getting on base in 11 straight at-bats and failed to reach base just three times all weekend.

The final game was similar to the first game as the teams were in a tightly contested battle. Minnesota’s Amber Fiser and Maryland’s Sydney Golden began the game in a pitchers’ duel as they both pitched four scoreless innings.

The first blemish on the box score came in the top of the fifth as the Gophers loaded bases. An error brought the first run home and was followed by two singles which scored four runs. The Gophers extended their lead to 5-0 in the sixth inning.

However, Maryland wasn’t ready to go down, and back-to-back extra base hits brought in three runs. Fiser was able to stop the offensive push and put Maryland away in the seventh to secure the win.

The win brought the Gophers’ spring break record to 7-2, losing only to Florida Gulf Coast and No. 6 Florida.

The Gophers head home for their first home series of the year against Purdue on March 29 after seven weeks on the road.