Minnesota goes 5-0 in Fresno, extends season record to 14-0

The Gophers edged their opponents by a 39-10 margin during the tournament.

Freshman Maddie Houlihan throws her bat after a base hit against Wisconsin on Apr. 12 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Sam Harper, Daily File Photo

Freshman Maddie Houlihan throws her bat after a base hit against Wisconsin on Apr. 12 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

by Kyle Steinberg

It wasn’t always easy, but the Minnesota softball team extended its program-best start to 14-0.

The No. 12 Gophers used a strong balance of hitting and pitching — including breakout performances from a few newcomers — to win all five weekend games.

Minnesota opened the tournament on Friday with a pair of decisive victories, the first against UC-Davis.

Behind a trio of three-hit performances, the Gophers notched their third run-rule victory of the season in a five-inning 10-1 victory.

Senior pitcher Tori Finucane, a transfer from Missouri, earned the win in the circle. She surrendered just one hit and had no earned runs over four innings.

“I just decided to take this senior year and play with everything I have, and I think it just started to click a bit more this weekend,” Finucane said.

The second game of the Friday doubleheader was again one-sided, as the Fresno State Bulldogs were unable to match Minnesota’s offensive firepower.

Sydney Dwyer continued her hot start to the season with a three-run homerun. Sam Macken, Danielle Parlich and MaKenna Partain added two hits each to cement the 9-2 victory for the Gophers.

Saturday brought on a rematch with the UC-Davis Aggies, who were looking for redemption.

After Kendyl Lindaman and Dani Wagner helped put Minnesota up 2-0 in the second, the UC-Davis pitching staff took over and held the Gophers scoreless in the next four innings.

After scoring once in the fourth, the Aggies used four hits in the fifth to snatch the lead from Minnesota — a lead they would hold heading to the bottom of the seventh.

A Maddie Houlihan RBI double cut the deficit to one, and the Gophers loaded the bases with one out as Sara Groenewegen stepped into the batter’s box.

Groenewegen hit the ball and Lindaman slid under a tag at third, rendering all Gophers safe, and the score was tied at four.

Enter Dani Wagner.

The junior — who didn’t record a hit all of last season — knocked a single to center for a 5-4 Gophers victory and a lengthened unbeaten season.

The hit was Wagner’s second walk-off of the year for Minnesota.

“[It’s] having the same approach each at bat, and just staying calm, not making it a bigger situation than it is,” Wagner said.

The Gophers were tested once more in the afternoon by Cal Poly.

The teams were knotted 1-1 after regulation — largely due to pitching.

Groenewegen continued her dominant start and threw a complete game with just two hits and no earned runs. She now boasts a 0.66 ERA accompanied by 53 strikeouts.

A Parlich RBI single paired with a Houlihan RBI double gave Minnesota a 3-1 lead in extra innings and the Gophers held on for the victory.

“[It shows] the toughness and the character of our team … I thought we grew a lot as a team on Saturday,” said head coach Jessica Allister.

The Gophers added another run-rule victory — this one 12-2 —Sunday over Idaho State to finish the weekend 5-0 and pushed their overall record to 14-0.