Minnesota goes 4-1, fails test against ASU

Betsy Helfand

 

The Gophers faced the toughest test of their young season Saturday in the Littlewood Classic and fell far short.

No. 5 Arizona State defeated Minnesota 12-0 in just six innings. ASU held the team to just three hits in the game, but head coach Jessica Allister said there are positives to take from the game.

“It didn’t show on the scoreboard, but we hit the ball hard, and we were aggressive,” Allister said.

 The Sun Devils are the reigning NCAA champions and were ranked No. 1 to begin the season, and the Gophers found out why.

Alissa Koch started the game for the Gophers and gave up seven runs, four of them earned in three innings. Top starter Sara Moulton rested against ASU but started all four other games in the tournament.

Freshman Kelsey Kimminau pitched two scoreless innings before giving up five runs in the sixth.

 “It’s great to get out with the defending national champions and see the pace that they play. … We got a good taste of the level we need to perform at,” Allister said.

Minnesota played four other games on the weekend and recorded four wins to push its overall record to 7-2.

Moulton racked up all four wins to push her record to 6-1. Her ERA is now 0.51.

She pitched five innings of four-hit, one-run ball in Minnesota’s first game against Iowa State. The Gophers won handily 9-1 in just six innings.

Shortstop Tyler Walker went 2-for-3 with four RBIs and three runs scored.

Walker’s four RBIs came on a grand slam in the fourth inning, which broke the game wide open.

Centerfielder Bree Blanchette, went 2-for-2 with three runs and one RBI.

The Gophers next beat Central Michigan 2-0 in a pitchers’ duel.

Right fielder Hannah Granger drove in the game-winning run in the top of the seventh, and Erika Smyth drove in an insurance run.

 “They’ve shown a lot of poise and have gotten a lot of big hits,” Allister said of the team’s group of freshmen.

One run was enough for Moulton. She pitched a complete game, seven-inning shutout and allowed just one hit. She struck out 12 in her best outing of the weekend.

Freshman Kaitlyn Richardson hit her second and third collegiate home runs in the team’s 9-0 five-inning win against Illinois State.

After nine games, Richardson leads the team with a .407 batting average and 14 RBIs.

“She had a great day yesterday, a great day today, and she’s going to be a good presence for us in the three hole,” Allister said.

Moulton pitched all five innings and gave up only two hits.

For Minnesota’s offense, when it rains, it pours. It has scored eight or more runs in five games and won four of those five games via the eight-run mercy rule.

The Gophers responded quickly to the 12-0 loss against ASU by defeating Iowa State 12-0 in six innings.

Madie Eckstrom led the team offensively; she went 2-for-4 and drove in four runs on a solo and a three-run home run.

As a team, Minnesota has hit 15 home runs in just nine games.

“When you swing hard and attack pitches in the zone, good things happen,” Allister said

Moulton struck out seven on six hits in five innings.

Minnesota’s set to compete in the Carolina Classic next weekend in Chapel Hill, N.C.