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‘We made history this year’: Minnesota’s softball season ends with loss to Washington

The Huskies defeated the Gophers 5-3 in the elimination bracket of the Women’s College World Series.
Hope Brandner stands on base during the Womens College World Series on May 30.
Hope Brandner stands on base during the Women’s College World Series on May 30.

The Gophers’ historic 2019 season came to an end on Saturday with a loss to a familiar opponent.

No. 3 Washington (51-8) defeated No. 7 Minnesota (46-14) 5-3 in the elimination bracket of the Women’s College World Series on Saturday at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After eliminating Minnesota in the 2018 NCAA Seattle Regional, the Huskies ended the Gophers’ season for the second consecutive year. This season was the Gophers’ first trip to the Women’s College World Series in program history.

Head coach Jamie Trachsel said the Gophers gave away too many runs in their two games because of fielding errors. Minnesota committed one error against UCLA on Thursday and two against the Huskies.

“It hurts because our defense has been so consistent,” Trachsel said. “Our pitching has been outstanding all year. We gave up scoring position. Against these caliber of teams, you can’t do that because they make you pay. It cost us several runs and was the difference in the games. We gave up too many runs to too many good teams. That’s hard to overcome.”

Huskies catcher Morganne Flores gave Washington a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Flores smashed her 23rd home run of the season to dead center field off Gophers pitcher Amber Fiser.

Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the third, left fielder Carlie Brandt smacked a RBI double to left field, scoring catcher Emma Burns. It was Brandt’s seventh double and seventh RBI of the season.

The game entered a rain delay before the top of the sixth inning at 12:50 p.m. The delay lasted until 4 p.m. Washington took a 5-1 lead in the sixth inning when left fielder Sami Reynolds drove in two with a double to center field. Those were Reynolds’ 42nd and 43rd RBIs of the season.

Minnesota made things interesting in the seventh inning. With two runners on base, Brandt hit her second double of the game, driving in two runs. Washington pulled pitcher Gabbie Plain after Brandt’s double.

Second baseman MaKenna Partain represented the winning run with two runners in scoring position. However, Huskies pitcher Taran Alvelo struck Partain out, ending Minnesota’s season. Alvelo earned her third save of the season.

“We know how good Partain is,” Washington head coach Heather Tarr said. “We had to find a way to close it out right there. I thought it was a good call to put [Alvelo] in to close the game out. I’m glad we got it done.”

As the Gophers shook hands with the Huskies, Minnesota fans in attendance near the third base dugout saluted the Gophers with a final rendition of the Minnesota rouser for the 2019 season.

Right fielder Maddie Houlihan said Minnesota’s seventh inning was a picture of the team’s character. 

“It shows the resiliency and the toughness that this team has,” Houlihan said. “I don’t think there’s ever a moment that we will ever give up. We will give you hell until you find a way to beat us.”

Fiser lost her ninth game of the season. She pitched 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs. Fiser struck out only one batter. Pitcher Sydney Smith replaced Fiser in the fourth inning. Smith allowed three hits and two unearned runs in 3.1 innings against Washington, striking out one batter.

The Gophers couldn’t produce enough against Plain. The Australia native won her 24th game of the season, allowing four hits while striking out 10.

Smith said Minnesota’s appearance at the 2019 Women’s College World Series will inspire future generations of softball players at the University. 

“Minnesota softball is changing,” Smith said. “We’re competitive. We can compete with anyone in the country. We’ve proved that this year. We’re ending our season as the No. 7 team in the country. Not many programs can say that. We’re here. A lot of other teams are not. We made history this year. Not a lot of people can say that. [Minnesota] is only on the up from here.”

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