Gophers’ season ends at regional

Minnesota lost to Washington in a must-win game Sunday.

Carissa Polo

The Gophers fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last weekend after winning their second Big Ten Tournament title in three years. 

Minnesota won its first game of the Seattle Regional against North Dakota State but split the second day of competition. A first-game loss of a must-win day against Washington Sunday brought Minnesota’s season to an end. 

“We’re happy with the way our season kind of panned out, but we’re obviously not very happy with the way it ended,” junior pitcher Sara Groenewegen said. “We didn’t play our best softball at the end.” 

The Gophers started out the Seattle Regional with a 7-2 victory over North Dakota State, the team’s 15th straight at the time. 

Minnesota lost its first game of the following day to host Washington but defeated NDSU a second time to stay alive in the tournament. 

The Gophers advanced to Championship Sunday but had to defeat Washington twice in order to advance to Super Regionals. 

The first game of the day saw Minnesota down 12-2 in the fifth inning, but the Gophers rallied, scoring five runs. 

The Huskies added to their lead with three runs in the sixth, ultimately defeating the Gophers 15-7 and ending Minnesota’s season. 

The Gophers lose six seniors with the end of the season. The class boasted a .873 victory percentage, the highest of any class in the program’s history. 

“We are definitely going to lose a lot of leadership,” junior third baseman Sam Macken said. “There’s only going to be three seniors including myself next year, so that’s a little bit different just because they were a bigger class.”

Minnesota’s junior class in particular stood out this season at the plate and on the mound and demonstrate that the program will be able to make up for the gaps the departing seniors may leave.

Macken led the team in hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, total bases run and slugging percentage for the season. She finished the season with 22 doubles, the second most in a season in school history.

Groenewegen finished the season with a 31-7 record in the circle, the second-most victories in one season for the program. 

Groenewegen also tied for first in the NCAA in wins with 31 and with strikeouts at 336.

“It’s an honor,” Groenewegen said. “My coaches put me in the position to be able to do this. And I’d do whatever I can to win, and I guess that shows.”

Despite making an early exit in the tournament, the Gophers did check one goal off of a list they set long before the season began, a Big Ten Tournament title over top-ranked Michigan.

“We go into a season with the goal of winning the Big Ten Championship,” Groenewegen said. “Ultimately we’re happy with our season because we did that.”