Minnesota tops Illini in first series at home

The Gophers won their home opener 13-0 against Illinois in just five innings.

Sam Macken is all smiles as she rounds the bases after hitting a home run during Saturday's  home opener double header against Illinois at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The Gophers won 6-5.

Sam Harper

Sam Macken is all smiles as she rounds the bases after hitting a home run during Saturday’s home opener double header against Illinois at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The Gophers won 6-5.

Emily Polglaze

The Gophers started a new winning streak over Saturday and Sunday by earning their second conference sweep of the season at home over Illinois. 
 
 
Minnesota won Saturday 13-0 and 6-5 and topped the Illini 6-2 on Sunday for the series sweep.
 
 
“Illinois can swing as well as anyone else in this conference, so for us to beat them three times, it’s a huge sweep,” head coach Jessica Allister said. “If you can pitch ahead and play an errorless defense, you’re going to win a lot of ball games. I was really impressed.”
 
 
The No. 22 Gophers (27-10, 8-1 Big Ten) got out to a hot start in Saturday’s first game, scoring nine runs in the bottom of the first inning.
 
 
Freshman Maddie Houlihan hit a grand slam over right field in the fourth inning as well, giving the team a 13-0 victory after five innings.
 
 
The Illini (23-15, 3-6 Big Ten) came back in the second game and tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the third inning.
 
 
Minnesota added two runs in the fifth and sixth innings, but Illinois threatened a comeback with three runs in the seventh. Sophomore Kylie Stober picked up her second save of the season though and closed out the game. 
 
 
“They hit the ball pretty well, so we had to come out and have good defense behind our pitchers,” Macken said. “We came into the dugout and knew we had to score and win every inning. That was very important for us.”
 
 
The Gophers kept hitting Sunday, scoring one run in each of the first four innings.
 
 
Illinois closed the gap with a two-run single in the top of the fifth, but Minnesota answered with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to extend its lead to 6-2.
 
 
The score held from there, and with the sweep, the Gophers are in first place in the Big Ten.
 
 
“We’ve talked about it a bit, and we’re in control of this Big Ten season,” junior Sara Groenewegen said. “That’s the way we’re going to see it. We can’t put pressure on ourselves; we just have to see it as an opportunity and play every game like it’s our last.”