Minnesota sweeps tough conference opponent

The softball team celebrates Ellie Cowger's home run on Sunday afternoon at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The Gophers won against Northwestern 11-0.

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The softball team celebrates Ellie Cowger’s home run on Sunday afternoon at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The Gophers won against Northwestern 11-0.

Matt Greenstein

Only five days after the Gophers fell down to fifth in the Big Ten standings after a 1-2 series with Michigan, Minnesota settled itself back among the conference best.
 
The Gophers faced conference leader Northwestern in a three game series over the weekend and swept the Wildcats with relative ease.
 
“We wanted to have a comeback. Last weekend was rough, and it taught us that we needed to keep competing,” senior infielder Tyler Walker said.
 
Minnesota asserted its dominance early in the series with a 10-5 win Friday
 
Within the first two innings of the game, the Gophers scored seven runs. 
 
Walker started the Gophers off as their leadoff hitter, singling and stealing a base in her first at bat.
 
“It’s been my job. If I can get on, then I’ve done my job. If I can get to first, take a base, get to third and score, I’ve done my job,” Walker said.
 
Walker helped Minnesota get off to a fast start in its victory Friday, and its offense didn’t slow down Saturday.
 
Down 2-0 in the fourth inning, freshman Danielle Parlich got Minnesota going with a single.
 
After Parlich reached base, other Gophers followed suit. Minnesota went to the plate 12 times during an eight-run fourth inning.
 
In her last nine games before the series, sophomore pitcher Sara Groenewegen hadn’t hit a home run. 
 
“I’ve been squaring the ball up, but nothing has really gone over the fence in a while,” Groenewegen said.
 
But with the bases empty during the eight-run outburst, the sophomore turned on a pitch over the middle and cranked it over the left-centerfield wall. 
 
“I think it was nice for one to finally go over,” Groenewegen said.
 
Groenewegen’s impact stretched further than the batter’s box.
 
During the Gophers’ final game of the series on Sunday, an 11-0 victory, the ace was close to perfection in the circle.
 
Groenewegen affirmed her ranking as one of the conference’s best pitchers with her second career no-hitter Sunday.
 
“She’s doing a good job of pitching in the moment. She has the ability to throw great games,” Allister said.
 
Although she only gave up five earned runs in her two starts, Minnesota’s run support behind her was immense, and Groenewegen took notice.
 
“The run support is huge. It’s always nice to have it, and it allows us to free [ourselves] up a bit,” she said.
 
The Gophers finished their three-game weekend with 31 runs, helping to propel them back atop the conference elite.
 
“These games meant a lot,” Groenewegen said. “I think we did a good job getting at [Northwestern], no matter what their ranking was in the Big Ten.”