Minnesota advances to Big Ten tournament semifinal

The Gophers defeated the Boilermakers 4-3 on Friday and will play Northwestern on Saturday.

Natalie Denhartog waits for the pitch during the game against Iowa at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Friday, April 26.

Chris McNamara

Natalie Denhartog waits for the pitch during the game against Iowa at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Friday, April 26.

Erik Nelson

The Gophers are one win away from another Big Ten championship game.

No. 3 Minnesota (40-11, 20-2) defeated No. 11 Purdue (31-27, 6-17) 4-3 Friday at Andy Mohr Field in Bloomington, Indiana. Senior pitcher Sydney Smith won her 13th game of the season while pitcher Amber Fiser earned her third save of the year. The Gophers hit three home runs in the game, which accounted for all of Minnesota’s runs.

Head coach Jamie Trachsel said Minnesota, the 2018 Big Ten tournament champions, battled until the end of the game.

“We had a good [second] inning and scored three runs and they were able to put a couple runs back on the board,” Trachsel said. “Smith did a great job. She kept them off balance.”

The Gophers’ big inning came in the second as designated player Natalie DenHartog launched her 16th home run of the season to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. Three batters later, third baseman Katelyn Kemmetmueller extended the Gophers’ lead to 3-0 with a two-run home run. It was Kemmetmueller’s sixth home run this season.

After Purdue cut Minnesota’s lead to 3-2 in the fourth inning, shortstop Allie Arneson hit the Gophers’ third home run of the day in the sixth inning. Arneson’s solo shot made it 4-2. It was her second home run of the season.

Arneson said her home run was meaningful. She hit the ball over the left field fence on the first pitch from Boilermakers pitcher Sydney Bates.

“Walking up to the plate, even in that at-bat, I [said], ‘You know, I’ve faced this pitcher before and I’ve hit a couple bombs off of her,'” Arneson said. “It just happened to be the first pitch.”

Fiser replaced Smith in the sixth inning. Fiser allowed one run and two hits while striking out four Boilermakers. Smith pitched five innings, allowing two runs and six hits. Smith, like Fiser, struck out four.

Trachsel said Purdue gave Minnesota everything it could handle.

“It’s playoff time,” she said. “There’s no gimmes in anything. We respected this game against Purdue. They were aggressive as an offense.”

Minnesota is the three-time defending Big Ten tournament champion and winners of four of the last five Big Ten tournaments. The Gophers will face No. 2 Northwestern (43-9, 21-2) in the second semifinal of the Big Ten tournament Saturday at approximately 10:30 a.m. at Andy Mohr Field.

Minnesota won two of three games against Northwestern last weekend. The winner of this game will face No. 1 Michigan (41-11, 22-1) or No. 5 Wisconsin (40-11, 15-8) in the Big Ten championship game Saturday at 1 p.m. All three games will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.

Arneson said the Gophers are ready for the quick turnaround against a familiar opponent. 

“We’re all stoked, especially with Northwestern,” she said. “They put up a good fight, and we put up a great fight. It’s always a fun battle between them. We’re hungry and we’re ready.”