No. 16 Minnesota opens the season undefeated

The Gophers scored 30 runs to start the season 5-0.

MaKenna Partain swings at a pitch during a game against Northwestern on Saturday, April 15, 2017 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

MaKenna Partain swings at a pitch during a game against Northwestern on Saturday, April 15, 2017 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

by Drew Cove

The Gophers opened the season with a bang this weekend.

No. 16 Minnesota (5-0) swept the opening weekend of the season at the UNLV SportCo Kickoff Classic with five victories.

“We came into this saying our mission was to win the tournament,” head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “Find different ways to win, whatever it is, whatever it takes.”

Minnesota started the weekend in Las Vegas with games against two teams from Utah: Southern Utah and  Utah Valley. For the Gophers, it did not matter which Utah team they played, scoring eight runs against each of them. Minnesota won its first game of the season 8-5 against Southern Utah, then got a second victory in a 8-3 win over Utah Valley.

On the first day of games, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year picked up where she left off. Catcher Kendyl Lindaman collected her first two home runs against the team’s first two opponents.

“They were great, just getting back into the swing of things,” Lindaman said. “Things don’t always go your way, but I did have a good weekend, so that’s just a great start for myself.”

Lindaman broke the Gophers record for home runs in a season last year with 20. Through the first two games, she was 4-7 with three RBIs.

The second day, the Gophers pitched a shutout in both games. 

The first game was against North Dakota State. Minnesota stifled the Bison in a 4-0 shutout. The second game was against UNLV and the Gophers shut the Rebels out 3-0.

Minnesota used two pitchers in the first four games, junior Sydney Smith and sophomore Amber Fiser. 

Smith started the first and fourth games of the weekend. In her Gophers debut, she went six innings with three strikeouts. The junior transfer from LSU came back in the fourth game of the weekend and shut out UNLV with seven strikeouts in all seven innings of work.

Fiser played in the first, second, third and fifth games of the weekend. She came in to record her first collegiate save in the first game, but started in the second and third game to lead the Gophers to two victories.

“This year, I feel a lot more confident and comfortable,” Fiser said. “Whatever happens, happens and I have confidence in the defense behind me.”

Fiser played again in the fifth game of the weekend and held the score close until Minnesota found a way to break the game open offensively. She played all seven innings of the game and found her way to a new personal best.

Fiser retired the final batter of the game with her 10th strikeout, which is the most in one game for her career.

Fiser led Minnesota to finish the weekend with a game against Creighton, which was a close match until the final inning of play. The Gophers scored six runs in the top of the seventh inning to lead Minnesota to a 7-3 victory.

The Gophers are now 5-0 and will head to the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They have two games against Notre Dame and Florida State.

“Winners find a way to win,” Trachsel said. “You have to win different ways.”