Gophers softball team sweep Nebraska in Big Ten opening series

Minnesota started off the Big Ten schedule with three straight victories.

Gophers infielder Danielle Parlich prepares to hit the ball Tuesday during the Border Battle Double-Header at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on April 12, 2016.

Sam Harper, Daily File Photo

Gophers infielder Danielle Parlich prepares to hit the ball Tuesday during the Border Battle Double-Header at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on April 12, 2016.

Kyle Steinberg

The Gophers softball team continued its non-conference success into the conference schedule this weekend.

No. 8 Minnesota (28-2, 3-0 Big Ten) swept Nebraska (8-20, 0-3 Big Ten) in the Big Ten opening series for both teams in Lincoln, Nebraska this weekend.

“Anytime you win three games in the Big Ten it’s a good weekend,” said head coach Jessica Allister. “We’re happy to start off the [conference] season with a sweep.”

The sweep wasn’t always inevitable, however, as the Cornhuskers presented the Gophers with a scare on Saturday.

Minnesota fell behind early, with Nebraska taking advantage of an error and a wild pitch in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead.

The Gophers responded with a run in the top of the third, but the Cornhuskers came right back to threaten in the bottom half.

With the bases loaded and nobody out, freshman Carlie Brandt came on to pitch for Minnesota. She was able to limit the damage, allowing just two runs to come across, but the Huskers extended their lead to 4-1.

After adding a run in the fifth, the Gophers came to the plate in the seventh down two runs, and the situation was dire with a runner on second and two outs.

Then, Danielle Parlich ripped an RBI double down the left field line, and came around to score the tying run on a Kendyl Lindaman single.

“We use the word gritty a lot on our team,” Parlich said. “Our goal overall is just to keep competing.”

That brought freshman — and Minnesota’s leader in hitting —MaKenna Partain to the plate, and she delivered with a single to put the Gophers in front, 5-4.

Brandt returned for the seventh and shut down the Huskers, forcing three groundouts to seal the Minnesota victory.

“She’s just fearless on the mound,” said outfielder Maddie Houlihan. “She’s so competitive, and she’s awesome to play behind when she’s pitching.”

After Saturday’s victory, Minnesota showed no signs of weakness on Sunday.

Boosted by a four-run third inning, the Gophers never looked back. Maddie Houlihan went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, and Kendyl Lindaman hit her eighth home run of the season to provide the offense for Minnesota.

Sara Groenewegen continued her dominance in the pitching circle, throwing a complete game while giving up just one run and racking up 11 strikeouts.

The sweep gives Minnesota momentum to start the Big Ten schedule, and they will look to build off that against Illinois next weekend.

“Illinois is a very good team,” Allister said. “We’ll start watching film on the bus ride back as a coaching staff…and get after it on Tuesday.”