Walk-off upset starts year

Minnesota won its game against No. 9 Oklahoma with a walk-off home run.

Gophers pitcher Sarah Groenewegen throws out the ball at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Apr. 26, 2015.

Alex Tuthill-Preus, Daily File Photo

Gophers pitcher Sarah Groenewegen throws out the ball at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Apr. 26, 2015.

Emily Polglaze

Minnesota’s 2016 season started with two shutouts, a walk-off victory and an upset.
The No. 14 Gophers swept their opening games Friday at the Sportco Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., with victories against Utah Valley and No. 9 Oklahoma. They then split Saturday’s competition with a victory against Texas Tech and a loss to Long Beach State.
In the team’s final game on Sunday, the Gophers fell to No. 20 Washington. 
“It was a good start. We played a tough schedule out here,” head coach Jessica Allister said. “We have a list of things we need to get better at, but we also have a list of some things that we did pretty well in against competition.”
Minnesota’s first game was a 9-0 victory against Utah Valley.
The Gophers only needed five innings to get the victory, with junior Sara Groenewegen hitting a home run to start the scoring. 
Freshman Maddie Houlihan added another home run in the third inning, and Minnesota scored five runs between the fourth and fifth innings to end the game early.
Minnesota’s second game against Oklahoma featured less scoring, with both teams failing to score a run through the first six innings. 
Sophomore Sydney Dwyer stepped up in the bottom of the seventh with one out and hit a home run to center field for the walk-off 1-0 victory. 
Groenewegen threw 14 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in the game. 
“It was really exciting. I think we were pretty confident after the first day,” Dwyer said. “It kind of set the tone, and it was good to come out and get two solid wins on the first day.”
In their first game on Saturday, the Gophers got out to a 6-0 lead after a four-run third inning which included a double by junior Sam Macken that scored two runs.
Texas Tech scored four runs from the fourth to the sixth innings but couldn’t complete a comeback in the end. 
Groenewegen added 15 strikeouts in her second start of the weekend, and Minnesota won 7-4.
The team ran into trouble right away in their second game Saturday against Long Beach State, as the 49ers opened with six runs in the first inning. 
Minnesota scored two runs, one coming off of a home run from Macken in the third inning, but Long Beach came away with a 13-2 victory in five innings. 
The Gophers closed out the tournament with Washington, and the two teams were tied 2-2 heading into the fourth inning. The Huskies scored two runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead, and Minnesota was never able to answer in a 7-2 loss.
The Gophers finished the tournament with a 3-2 record to start the season.
“Teams are going to lose, and that’s inevitable. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an undefeated softball team,” Groenewegen said. “We lost, but it’s how teams come back from losing. As long as we come out of this weekend learning something and finding a way to get better, we’ll be fine.”