Gophers win two of three at Northwestern

After two blowouts, Minnesota won Sunday in extra innings.

Betsy Helfand

 

EVANSTON, Ill. — After a Saturday in which Minnesota and Northwestern split games — both via the mercy rule — the teams needed extra innings Sunday to settle the series.

Minnesota won the third game 6-3 in eight innings behind a perfect day at the plate by shortstop Tyler Walker.

Walker went 4-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored. She sparked a three-run rally in the eighth inning with a single and scored the eventual winning run.

Gophers ace Sara Moulton pitched all eight innings for the win. She gave up three runs, one earned, on six hits.

Unlike Sunday, both of Saturday’s games were lopsided.

The Gophers won 10-2 in five innings via the run rule in Saturday’s first game.

Gophers left fielder Erica Meyer broke the game wide open with a grand slam in the fourth inning to give Minnesota a 6-2 lead.

 “I was annoyed with myself for swinging at a bad pitch before, and I was just like ‘OK, forget about it,’ and then I hit the ball,” Meyer said.

Head coach Jessica Allister moved Meyer back to the two-hole in the lineup where she had started the season. The move immediately paid dividends.

“Getting her up there was a way of trying to put a little more pressure on the defense. It wasn’t to hit a grand slam, but we’ll take it,” Allister said after Saturday’s games.

The bottom-third of the Gophers order — Dannie Skrove, Erika Smyth and Bree Blanchette — combined to bat 4-for-8 with four runs scored and five RBIs.

Allister said it was good to see the offensive explosion in the first game of the series, which she said had been “missing in the last couple outings.”

That offense was nowhere to be seen in Saturday’s second game. Northwestern toppled Minnesota 8-0 in six innings, again inflicting the mercy rule.

Allister called the game frustrating because of how the Wildcats’ scorers got on base. Five ofthe Wildcats’ runs were scored by players who walked or reached base by error.

“Northwestern’s got some great hitters, and they’re going to get their hits. The key is making sure that you keep the people off in front of them, and we didn’t do a very good job of that,” Allister said.

Alissa Koch started the game and walked two batters and hit three.

Kelsey Kimminau came on in relief and gave up a walk in her brief appearance.

Allister said Saturday her team needs to allow fewer walks and hit batsmen. “Walks are free so we’ve got to do a better job as far as making adjustments, and then we’ve got to make them earn what they get.”

Moulton started the first game of the series and walked two batters and hit two.

On Sunday, Moulton walked two and hit one batter.

Minnesota will return to action for its second consecutive midweek doubleheader Wednesday night when it plays North Dakota State.