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Gophers swept by Big Ten-leading Cornhuskers

Nebraska is undefeated in Big Ten play (13-0).
Natalie Denhartog waits for the pitch during the game against Iowa at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Friday, April 26.
Image by Chris McNamara
Natalie Denhartog waits for the pitch during the game against Iowa at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Friday, April 26.

The Minnesota Gophers Softball team (19-18-1) was downed by Nebraska (33-9) this past weekend on the road. They were shut out in back-to-back games: 7-0 on Friday and 11-0 on Saturday. The bats woke up on Sunday but the pitching didn’t perform for the third straight game. The Gophers lost 11-8.

GAME ONE: Nebraska 7, Gophers 0

Minnesota started the game going down in order in the first inning. Nebraska, in the back half of the inning, scored 2 runs on a two-run home run by Sydney Gray. The Cornhuskers would continue to bring in runs in the third inning, scoring 3 runs off of a Mya Felder RBI single and an Abbie Squier 2 RBI double. Cam Ybarra would send a solo shot in the fifth inning and Peyton Gladder would bring in a run during the sixth inning with an RBI infield single to second base. Olivia Ferrell would finish her complete-game shutout in the seventh inning, serving up 126 total pitches in the ballgame striking out four hitters.

The Gophers left 8 runners in scoring position this game and only cranked three base hits in the game from Chloe Evans, Makenna Dowell and Kayla Chavez. Autumn Pease earned 4 runs during 3.2 innings pitched to start the game. In relief, Nani Valencia earned 3 runs in 2 innings pitched and Ansleigh Hollifield got the Gophers out of a bases inning jam in the sixth inning, pitching 0.1 innings.

GAME TWO: Nebraska 11, Gophers 0 (5 innings)

For the second straight game, the Gophers laid a goose egg against Nebraska and only were able to muster three hits on offense. Those hits came on the first at-bat of the first three innings from Lauren Espalin, Sara Kinch and Chavez. On the circle, Pease lost her second straight start, earning 6 runs in 2.2 innings pitched. Hollifield in relief would earn 5 runs in 1.1 innings pitched.

The Cornhuskers started their slugfest in the second inning, with Caitlynn Neal doubling to score 2 runs. In the third inning, Felder reached base on an error by Gophers first-baseman Megan Dray, scoring a run. That Minnesota misstep would continue the inning as Ava Bredwell knocked a single to boost the Nebraska lead to 4-0. The Cornhuskers would homer twice more in the inning to make the game 8-0. In the fourth inning, Nebraska would drive in three runs, winning the ballgame in the fifth inning due to the NCAA Softball run rule. Kaylin Kinney would pitch a five-inning shutout, throwing 60 pitches, striking out three hitters.

GAME THREE: Nebraska 11, Gophers 8
Minnesota managed to grab their first lead of the series and greatly increased it with a high-octane third inning before faltering in later innings. To start, Espalin homered in the first inning followed by Kinch hitting a bomb in the second to make the game 2-1 after a Cornhuskers score. In the third inning, the Gophers would score a run off of a Sydney Strelow groundout and another off of an Ali Lindner walk. Emily Hansen would soon hit a grand slam and the Gophers would head into the bottom of the third inning with a commanding 8-1 lead.

Nebraska in the third inning would corral three runs off of two RBI singles. Starting pitcher Emily Leavitt would blank the Cornhuskers in the fourth inning but in the fifth inning, everything fell apart with a Peyton Glatter grand slam to tie the game at 8 apiece. Minnesota head coach, Piper Ritter, decided to leave Leavitt in the ballgame for the sixth inning, which did not prove to be a successful decision as Leavitt gave up a two-run homer and an RBI single. Valencia came in for relief, throwing 6 pitches to get the Gophers out of the inning. Leavitt would finish with 113 pitches thrown, earning 11 runs in 5.2 innings pitched. Minnesota would not score in the seventh inning as Nebraska would win their 18th straight game.

The Gophers enter their longest homestand of the season, playing Wisconsin (double-header), Maryland (three-game series), and St. Thomas (single game) all at home. Their first of the seven-game homestand against the Badgers will start at 4 p.m. CT and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

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