Gophers win one in Michigan

Minnesota scored only four runs in a three-game series against the No. 3 Wolverines.

Minnesota pitcher Sara Moulton winds up to throw a pitch against Indiana on Saturday, May 4, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Image by Daily File Photo; Jaak Jensen

Minnesota pitcher Sara Moulton winds up to throw a pitch against Indiana on Saturday, May 4, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

by Jared Christensen

No. 13 Minnesota traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., over the weekend and pulled off an upset victory over third-ranked Michigan on Friday before falling
Saturday and Sunday.

The Gophers won 1-0 in the first game of the three-game set but lost 3-1 and 7-2, respectively, in the final two games.

Minnesota’s lone win came as a result of stellar pitching from senior Sara Moulton, who started the game, and freshman Sara Groenewegen, who struck out four batters in 2.2 innings of relief.

The Gophers’ pitching staff could only do so much, though — the struggling offense totaled just four runs in the three-game series.

Still, the Friday win over Michigan — which snapped the Big Ten leader’s 20-game winning streak — was huge for Minnesota’s confidence.

Gophers head coach Jessica Allister said she was happy with the way her team played during the first two games but was disappointed it didn’t pull out another win.

“It was a bit disappointing not to come away with the series win,” Allister said, “but I think we showed we can play softball at a very high level.”

Moulton collected the win in the first game, her 20th of the season, and Groenewegen was awarded the save for her relief work.

Groenewegen, who was named a finalist for the National Freshman of the Year award last week, suffered the first loss of her college career Saturday.

Moulton said she felt good about the weekend as a whole, and now her focus is shifting toward making improvements for the rest of the year.

“We’re feeling good about the weekend,” she said, “but there are still some things we have to fix up and improve on.”

Those improvements will start at the plate as Michigan’s tough-to-hit pitching staff quieted Minnesota’s bats all weekend.

The Gophers’ four runs this weekend pale in comparison to the 25 they produced in their previous three games.

Allister credited Michigan’s pitchers but said her team didn’t do itself any favors.

“We helped them out,” she said. “We left seven runners on base Saturday and just couldn’t come up with the big hit to blow it open.”

Michigan, on the other hand, came away with the big hit when opportunity knocked.

Sunday’s game started as a pitchers’ duel, but the Wolverines blew the game open with a six-run fifth inning.

That big inning came just after Gophers freshman infielder Sam Macken blasted a solo home run to level the score at 1-1.

Macken said she was excited to give her team the offensive boost but was disappointed it didn’t win the game.

“It obviously didn’t finish the way we wanted it to,” she said.

The Gophers’ two losses drop them to 11-5 in the Big Ten, but their 33 wins overall are tied for second-most in the conference.

Now, with 10 games left in the regular season, Moulton said the focus is on finishing strong and building momentum toward the postseason.

“Now we have seven games in a row at home, and we’re playing great softball,” she said. “That should all help to finish the year strong.”