Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister has said all season that if her team performs three facets of the game —offense, defense and pitching — well, they will have a good chance to win.
This weekend, the Gophers excelled at all three.
No. 6 Minnesota (38-3, 10-1 Big Ten) battled through three Friday night rain delays to earn a weekend sweep of Northwestern (16-23, 3-9 Big Ten).
“I think we had a couple of different curveballs thrown at us [this weekend] — Friday night we had three different rain delays,” Allister said. “I was pleased with our performance.”
Friday night’s game was an interesting one, as the teams had to clear the field three times due to rain.
The Gophers got on the board early with a two-run first inning, but after Northwestern pulled within a run in the third the game was delayed for the first time.
The Gophers didn’t seem to mind the break, however, as outfielder Sam Macken hit the first pitch she saw after play resumed over the center field fence for what would prove to be the winning run.
“Our team was just having a great time [during the delays],” said catcher Kendyl Lindaman. “We knew right when we stepped back on the field we had to be focused and we [were] just that.”
Sara Groenewegen gave up one earned run in the circle and pitched all seven innings to earn the victory.
The Gophers added two runs in the third and fifth innings to cement the 6-2 victory.
Saturday brought on a tougher test from the Wildcats, especially early in the game.
Amber Fiser allowed the first three Northwestern hitters to reach base, with two brought home on an RBI single.
The Gophers benefitted from strong defense to get out of the inning without further damage, but Northwestern had an early lead.
That lead was cut in half in the bottom of the first when third baseman Danielle Parlich hit a home run — one of just two Gophers hits on the day.
The second hit turned out to be a big one as well — a Sydney Dwyer home run to left that tied the score at two.
Shortstop Allie Arneson drew a walk to start the bottom of the fifth and advanced to third following an error and a wild pitch.
She would score the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Maddie Houlihan, sliding under the tag to give Minnesota the victory.
“You got to win on days where you struggle to hit,” said Allister. “It was impressive that Amber, after a tough first inning, just put up zeroes the rest of the way.”
Sunday’s game featured an early offensive explosion. The Gophers scored seven runs in the first two innings with more dominance by Groenewegen in the circle.
She gave up two hits on the day and again threw a complete game to move her season record to 19-2.
“Something we talked about this weekend was just being gritty,” Groenewegen said. “I’m happy with our outing, and I’m happy with my personal outing as well.”
With the series sweep and a Michigan loss to Maryland on Saturday, Minnesota is now in sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.
“We’re in control of our fate at this point,” Groenewegen said. “Having that control is a really awesome feeling.”