Gophers swept in heartbreaking fashion by PSU

The Gophers lost three straight games after they led heading into the final inning.

Betsy Helfand

Twice Saturday the Gophers entered the bottom of the seventh inning against Penn State clinging to a lead, and twice their lead vanished by the inning’s end.

Minnesota (28-19, 7-11 Big Ten) suffered the same fate Sunday, and it was swept by Penn State (17-27, 8-10 Big Ten), which won its third straight game in comeback fashion.

The Gophers held a lead for most of Saturday’s first game. They took a 1-0 lead on a first-inning single by Madie Eckstrom, and they added two more runs in the third.

The Nittany Lions evened the score with three runs of their own in the fourth, but Minnesota took a 5-3 lead in the top of the fifth on a Bree Blanchette single.

The Gophers took a 5-4 lead into the seventh inning with Alissa Koch on the mound. Koch, who had come in earlier in relief of ace Sara Moulton, ran into trouble with the first batter.

After a leadoff double, a wild pitch and a walk, Koch gave up a game-tying single.

Koch was replaced by freshman Kelsey Kimminau, but Koch’s walk came around to score the winning run on a fielder’s choice by Penn State’s best hitter Cassidy Bell. The Nittany Lions won 6-5.

The second game of the doubleheader ended in similar fashion, with Penn State winning 4-3 in extra innings on a walk-off hit.

Moulton, who had held the Nittany Lions hitless until the fifth inning and scoreless until the seventh inning, surrendered the 3-0 lead.

Third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson led off the eighth inning with a double, but the Gophers couldn’t mount a rally to bring her home.

Penn State’s Alyssa Sovereign delivered the game-winning single with two outs in the eighth.

The Gophers got on the board earlier in the game with a home run by shortstop Tyler Walker in the third inning.

Catcher Kari Dorle knocked in two runs in the fifth with a single to score right fielder Dannie Skrove and Walker.

On Sunday, it again looked like the Gophers would walk away victorious, but Penn State scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to win 4-3.

Moulton induced a fly-out by Sovereign to start the seventh inning, but then she ran into trouble.

Bell singled but was forced out on a fielder’s choice, which left the batter, shortstop Alyssa Renwick, on first base with one out.

After a single and a wild pitch during second baseman Lauren Yao’s at bat, the Nittany Lions had runners on second and third.

Yao battled Moulton and saw eight pitches before she finally put the ninth in play. She hit a walk-off, two-run single, and the Gophers suffered their third straight comeback loss.

The Gophers scored all three runs on Erika Smyth’s second home run of the year in the second inning.

Walker added a hit, and the Gophers drew six walks, but they struggled to create additional opportunities on offense.

Head coach Jessica Allister could not be reached for comment after the series.

Minnesota will return to play next weekend when it hosts Purdue at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.