Gophers fall to Michigan in Big Ten championship game

Minnesota lost 3-2 to the Wolverines, ending the Gophers bid to win a fourth straight Big Ten tournament.

Katelyn Kemmetmueller looks to throw the ball to first base at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Sunday, April 14. The Gophers beat Michigan State two games to none as part of their double header.

Jack Rodgers

Katelyn Kemmetmueller looks to throw the ball to first base at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Sunday, April 14. The Gophers beat Michigan State two games to none as part of their double header.

Erik Nelson

Minnesota’s Big Ten championship streak came to an end on Saturday.

No. 3 Minnesota (41-12, 20-2) lost to No. 1 Michigan (43-11, 22-1) 3-2 in a battle for the Big Ten championship. Michigan won its first Big Ten title since 2015. The Gophers, who won the 2016, 2017 and 2018 tournaments, fell short in their bid to successfully defend their Big Ten championship for the third time. 

The Gophers advanced to the championship after topping Northwestern 4-0 earlier in the day.

In the first inning against the Wildcats, first baseman Hope Brandner gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead with her 17th home run of the season. Brandner hit a two-run shot off of Wildcats pitcher Kaley Winegarner. 

Katelyn Kemmetmueller extended Minnesota’s lead to 3-0 in the second inning with her seventh home run of the season. 

Amber Fiser won her 26th game of the season as she pitched a complete game shutout. The junior struck out 13 Wildcats and allowed four hits. 

In the championship game against Michigan, the pitchers dominated the beginning of the game as the score was knotted at 0-0 heading into the fourth inning. 

However, the Wolverines broke through in the fourth inning when third baseman Madison Uden lined a double into the left center field gap, scoring center fielder Natalie Peters. In the fifth inning, Wolverines pitch hitter Lou Allan smacked an RBI double off the left field wall to give Michigan a 2-0 lead. Fiser allowed the double after she entered the game in the fifth inning to relieve Smith.

After a brief rain delay that began in the top of the sixth inning, the Gophers responded in the bottom of the inning. Brandner hit her 18th home run of the season over the right field wall. Later, with two runners on base, shortstop Allie Arneson drove in designated player Natalie DenHartog to cut Michigan’s lead to 3-2.

That was as close as Minnesota would get. Wolverines pitcher Alex Storako shut down the Gophers in the seventh inning, earning her second save of the season. After left fielder Carlie Brandt walked to lead off the seventh, Storako retired second baseman MaKenna Partain, right fielder Maddie Houlihan and Brandner. The Wolverines celebrated on the slippery infield as Michigan clinched an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament.

Michigan pitcher Meghan Beaubien won her 28th game of the season. Beaubien held Minnesota to two runs and struck out four Gophers. Minnesota pitcher Sydney Smith lost her fifth game of the season, allowing two runs and three hits in five innings.

Brandner, Fiser and Kemmetmueller were named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team.

Minnesota will await its NCAA tournament fate on Sunday when the NCAA Tournament Selection Show airs on NCAA.com. In 2018, the Gophers lost in the Seattle Regional to Washington, who went on to the College World Series.