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Gophers softball wins series against Indiana, improving to 23-15

Minnesota knocked off the best team in the Big Ten, handing them their first two conference losses.
Autumn Pease struck out her 500th batter as a Gopher in the series’ third game. Photo taken by Craig Lassig of Gopher Athletics.

After winning their first Big Ten series against Penn State, the Gophers beat Indiana, who came into the weekend on top of the Big Ten without a conference loss.

Entering the weekend on a 22-game win streak, Indiana was supremely confident in facing Minnesota. The Hoosiers took Game 1 of the series, but the Gophers grabbed the next two, winning the series and posting a 4-2 record in their six-game homestand.

Autumn Pease struck out her 500th batter as a member of the Minnesota Gophers in Game 3 of the series. This is an incredible feat for the Gopher right-hander, who has been instrumental in Minnesota’s success this season.

April 7

The first three innings of Game 1 were an old-fashioned pitching duel between two of the best pitchers in the Big Ten. Pease and Brianna Copeland both held no-hitters going into the fourth inning.

The scoring started on a solo home run from Copeland. Minnesota responded the following half inning when Maddie Ehlke reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Sydney Strelow.

Over the next three innings, the Hoosiers put up 8 runs off Pease and Jacie Hambrick. The Gophers did not produce enough offense to stay in the game. Natalie DenHartog was the only offense for the Gophers in the late innings, with a 2 RBI single.

Copeland tossed a complete game, allowing 3 earned runs and improving to 14-0 on the season. The Hoosiers won Game 1 of the series 9-3, extending their win streak to 23 games.

April 8

The series’ second game started with a Jess Oakland solo home run in the second inning, her 8th of the year. Hambrick started in the circle for Minnesota and went two scoreless innings.

The Indiana offense exploded in the fourth inning, scoring 5 runs off of Gopher reliever Bri Enter. Taryn Kern had a 2 RBI double, adding to her freshman season. Kern ranks first in the Big Ten in slugging percentage, OBP, OPS, RBIs and HRs.

However, Oakland hit her second home run of the game, a 2-run shot to deep center field. The Gophers tied the game in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI fielder’s choice from Delaine Cox.

Oakland stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in a tied game. Oakland walked it off with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Kayla Chavez.

Minnesota won Game 2 of the series in style with a walk-off 6-5, evening the series at one apiece.

April 9

Going into the final game of the series tied, both Indiana and Minnesota used their aces, Copeland and Pease. Minnesota’s Game 2 win snapped the 23-game win streak and broke the Hoosiers’ undefeated 9-0 conference record.

Chavez wasted no time hitting a solo shot off Copeland in the first inning to give the Gophers an early lead. However, Indiana responded with another huge inning, scoring three times and taking a 3-1 lead.

The Gophers immediately evened the game at 3 after some defensive mistakes by the Hoosiers, who tallied three errors in the game. Indiana’s offense produced once again. This time it was Taylor Minnick who hit a 2-run home run.

Minnesota quickly responded again with an RBI single from Taylor Krapf and Ehlke’s fielder’s choice, which plated another run.

Pease reentered the game in the fifth after Enter and Sydney Schwartz went two innings in relief. In the top of the sixth inning, Pease struck out her 500th batter with a high fastball blown past Brooke Benson.

In the bottom of the 6th inning, the game was tied 5-5. A single by Nani Valencia and two walks loaded the bases for Ehlke. With two out in the inning, Ehlke tripled into right-center field, clearing the bases and giving Minnesota an 8-5 lead.

Pease retired the side in the seventh inning, giving Minnesota the series win against the Indiana Hoosiers. She added to her Big Ten leading 174 strikeouts on the season, which is 27 more than any other pitcher.

The Gophers will be back in action in East Lansing for a three-game series against the Michigan State Spartans Friday. Minnesota will be looking for their third straight Big Ten series win.

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