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Gophers softball enters small slump after homestand sweep

Since sweeping Ohio State on April 6, Minnesota has lost six of their last eight games.
Image by CJ Bonk
Delanie Cox hit her first career triple in the Gophers’ 9-6 win in Game 2 of the series vs. Rutgers on April 20.

Gophers softball dropped to 23-21 (9-8 in the Big Ten) on Sunday after a rubber match loss to Rutgers at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

The Gophers played five games last week, starting with a series against Wisconsin on April 17. Minnesota split the “border battle” doubleheader with the Badgers and lost two of three to the Scarlet Knights on the weekend.

Doubleheader against Wisconsin

Minnesota faced the Badgers’ graduate pitcher Tessa Magnanimo, who tossed her first career no-hitter in Game 1. Sophomore shortstop Jess Oakland spoiled Magnanimo’s perfect game in the first inning with a walk.

Gophers freshman pitcher Macy Richardson took the circle in Game 2 and threw her first career complete game in a 7-3 win over Wisconsin. She allowed just three runs on five hits and struck out four in her fifth career victory.

Oakland led the Gophers offense, going 2-for-3 with five RBIs, including a three-run home run and an RBI double.

Rutgers takes two in Minneapolis

Minnesota faced one of the toughest pitchers in the Big Ten, Mattie Boyd. In Game 1, she threw her third straight complete game, this time a 3-0 shutout win for the Scarlet Knights.

Jacie Hambrick tossed her first complete game of the season and 10th of her career in the loss, going seven innings and allowing three runs on nine hits.

Kayla Chavez got her 150th career hit in the game and was the only Gopher with two hits off Boyd.

The Gophers rebounded in Game 2, winning 9-6 as the offense responded like it did in the Wisconsin series with Richardson in the circle. 

Saturday marked Oakland’s 100th career start as a Gopher, having played every game in her two seasons. Junior catcher Taylor Krapf also reached 100 starts in a Gophers uniform after transferring from Duke.

Oakland said the experience has been the difference maker and is the cause of her improvement from her first to second year.

“The whole year last year was huge to know what to expect with travel and playing in Big Ten weather,” Oakland said. “My confidence has also grown a lot and my confidence in my teammates.”

Oakland leads the conference in batting average (.451), OPS (1.447), OBP (.546), runs scored (60), walks (31) and hits (64). She is second in the Big Ten in home runs (17) and RBIs (49).

Nani Valencia knocked in Minnesota’s first run of the series in the first inning. Delanie Cox followed suit with a three-run triple, the first three-bagger of her career.

Cox said she does not think she is the fastest on the field but was happy to make a big play for her teammates who have supported her this season.

It meant a lot to me, especially this whole season, which has been up and down, with struggles here and there,” Cox said. “To be able to do that for me, especially when they support me in my toughest times, it just meant the world to me.

The Gophers scored in each of the first four innings, mounting an eight-run lead. Minnesota never trailed in the game, evening the series at one game apiece.

Head coach Piper Ritter said if the hits come, then the runs will follow.

“The runs and the hits come when you are diligent at the plate and are working at swinging at your pitches, swinging at strikes and taking balls,” Ritter said. “Making adjustments, the pitcher is going to adjust from one at-bat to the next, so you have to make an adjustment.”

Rutgers decided to return to Boyd for the decisive game in the series, and she threw another complete game. The Scarlet Knights won 6-1 and took the series, improving to 29-19 (10-7 in the Big Ten) with the win Sunday afternoon.

Minnesota’s offense never figured out Boyd as they finished the series, only scoring one run in 14 innings.

Krapf went 2-for-3 in the series finale, and her second hit was the 100th of her career on her birthday, April 21, encompassing her time at Duke and Minnesota.

Richardson left her impact on the series after throwing nine innings, the most she has tossed in a single series in her freshman season. She has 61.1 innings pitched, a 5-4 record, a 5.36 ERA and 37 strikeouts to 25 walks.

Oakland said the freshman has been “huge” for the pitching staff in her first year.

“Macy, I’m so proud of her,” Oakland said. “The last two games, she’s had phenomenal outings, and she gets better and better every time she [takes the circle].”

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