Gophers make title game before falling to Jayhawks

The loss ended Minnesota’s longest winning streak since 2008.

by Nick Sudheimer

After a rough start to the season, the Gophers softball team rattled off five straight wins at the Spartan Classic, advancing all the way to the finals before finally falling to Kansas.

The winning streak was the longest since 2008, and it brought the Gophers record to .500 on the season.

 âÄúWe had a great tournament as a team, and weâÄôve taken huge strides compared to where we were two weeks ago,âÄù said freshman pitcher Sara Moulton, who went 3-1 on the weekend. âÄúWeâÄôre really coming together and playing together as a team.âÄù

Minnesota balanced offense and defense as it blanked Morehead State 4-0 in the first game of the tournament. Moulton notched the first complete game shutout of her career while the Gophers offense had 10 hits, led by sophomore third baseman Alex Davis, who went 4-for-4 with 3 RBIs.

âÄúOnce [Davis] gets going, itâÄôs hard to stop her,âÄù Moulton said. âÄúSheâÄôs going to do great things for us this year.âÄù

Minnesota rode that momentum into its next game and came out firing against previously unbeaten Kansas. Senior Malisa Barnes set the tone for the Gophers by opening the game with a leadoff homerun, her third of the season.

But Kansas showed why it was undefeated on the season, quickly responding to BarnesâÄô homerun with two runs in the bottom of the first and two more in the bottom of the fourth, giving the Jayhawks a 4-1 lead.

Minnesota responded with a comeback of its own, scoring two runs in both the sixth and seventh innings. The Gophers took their first lead since the first inning when Alex Davis brought home teammate Allie Siu for the go-ahead run. MinnesotaâÄôs defense held on to win and handed the Jayhawks their first loss of the season.

âÄúWeâÄôre not going to let any game go down easy. WeâÄôre not going to sit there and bow down to anyone because weâÄôre just as good as anyone,âÄù Davis said.

The Gophers continued their hot streak as they beat host North Carolina Greensboro in back-to-back games and advanced to the finals in the process. Pitcher Alissa Koch picked up her first win of the season, and the Gophers scored in every inning but the third as they withstood a late run from the Spartans for an 8-6 victory to earn the top seed in bracket play.

Due to seeding, the Gophers faced UNC-Greensboro again in the first round of bracket play. An RBI single by Natalie Neal in the sixth inning was all Moulton needed to achieve her second complete game of the weekend. The Gophers eliminated the Spartans 1-0 and advanced to the finals for a rematch with Kansas.

Despite a strong pitching performance from Moulton in the finals, Jayhawks pitcher Kristin Martinez proved to be too much for Minnesota as Kansas avenged their earlier loss to the Gophers, 1-0.

Despite the Gophers successful weekend, Davis admits that the team still has a lot it needs to improve on.

âÄúThis tournament gives us a lot of outlook on the season. It gives us things that we need to work on,âÄù Davis said. âÄúThere are things we do need to sharpen, and weâÄôre going to go back to practice and work on it.

âÄúAnd there are a lot of twists and turns and ups and downs, and itâÄôs just a matter of who can stay on the straightest path and stay consistent. I think if we play great Minnesota softball we will be fine.âÄù