Offense struggles as Minnesota loses three of five in Arizona tournament

Minnesota had two runs combined in its three losses over the weekend.

Nate Gotlieb

Freshman first baseman Paige Palkovich hit two home runs, including a game-winner Saturday night, but Minnesota finished with a 2-3 record at the Littlewood Classic at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

The Gophers (3-6) scored two runs in their three losses — two in two games against Illinois State and none against No. 3 Arizona State. Their two wins this weekend came Saturday against Northern Iowa.

Palkovich broke a 1-1 tie Saturday night with her second home run of the season. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Palkovich hit a shot off the left-field foul pole, giving the Gophers a 3-1 lead, which stood.

Palkovich knew she hit the ball hard when it left her bat, but she said she wasn’t sure it was a home run.

“I wasn’t going to start my home run trot too early, ’cause I wasn’t sure it was over,” she said.

Palkovich batted 4-for-14 with two home runs and three RBIs on the tournament, but the Gophers struggled offensively, scoring 10 runs in the five games.

The Gophers rallied Saturday around junior pitcher Sara Moulton. Sophomore shortstop Tyler Walker led off Saturday afternoon’s game with a solo home run, and Moulton pitched a complete-game shutout, striking out 12.

Moulton took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but gave up a single in the seventh as the Gophers won 5-0.

Moulton allowed one earned run in seven innings Saturday night as the Gophers defeated Northern Iowa 3-1. She started four games on the weekend, giving up seven earned runs in 22 2/3 innings and striking out 30.

Minnesota struggled offensively again Sunday as Arizona State pitcher Dallas Escobedo held the team to one hit and struck out nine batters. Arizona State scored five runs in the fifth and cruised to an 8-0 five-inning victory.

“She’s a national championship pitcher,” head coach Jessica Allister said of Escobedo. “We swung at some pitches out of the zone, we took some pitches in the zone, and against a pitcher of that caliber, you better attack strikes.”

The Gophers will travel to Fort Meyers, Fla., next weekend for the Florida Gulf Coast Tournament.