Where there’s smoke, there’s fire — and perhaps nowhere more so than in the Gophers softball batting order.
No. 7 Minnesota (32-3, 5-1 Big Ten) once again showcased its offensive firepower in two victories over South Dakota (12-22, 3-3 Summit) on Tuesday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium — the Gophers’ home opener.
“It was wonderful — we love playing at home,” said head coach Jessica Allister.
The Gophers lit up the scoreboard early in game number one when sophomore right fielder Maddie Houlihan capitalized on two early baserunners with a three-run home run.
Freshman catcher Kendyl Lindaman continued her power streak with two more home runs — the first of which hit the end wall of the new Gophers football practice facility beyond the left field fence.
“It’s gross, honestly,” said game two starting pitcher Amber Fiser. “I don’t get how [Lindaman] can hit it that far.”
Lindaman now has 13 home runs on the season, just two shy of the Minnesota single-season record.
After scoring seven runs in the first two innings, Lindaman’s second home run lengthened the lead to eight after four innings.
Senior pitcher Tori Finucane shut down the Coyotes in the fifth to cement Minnesota’s 11th run-rule victory of the season.
If the Gophers started fast in game one, they hit light speed early in the second contest.
After Houlihan, Lindaman, and Sydney Dwyer all tallied RBI, Allie Arneson hit a bases-clearing single with two outs to give the Gophers an early six-run lead after the first inning.
Houlihan has found her groove in recent weeks, raising her batting average over .400 — one of four Gophers over that mark.
The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year was a combined 4-5 on Tuesday, knocking in four runs and scoring three of her own, but perhaps her most noticeable impact was in the field.
She made multiple tough catches in right — notable, because Houlihan was a career first baseman, and had never played in the outfield prior to this season.
“Obviously it’s a new position, but every time I get out and get my reps in I feel like I get better,” Houlihan said. “It’s good to make those [defensive] plays for the team.”
The Gophers didn’t take their feet off the gas, and the large lead allowed many bench players to see game action — Kaylen Krueger, Katelyn Kemmetmueller, and Erika Rozell all contributed to Minnesota’s scoring.
While offense certainly was the story of the day, and scoring 20 runs combined may draw attention away from the Gophers’ pitching, South Dakota didn’t manage to score in either game.
Tori Finucane, Amber Fiser and Carlie Brandt combined to shut out the Coyotes over 10 innings, and gave up just three hits in the process.
Although many may overlook their efforts, Allister took full notice.
“Shutouts are never lost in the shuffle,” she said.