Non-conference, no problem.
That was the case for the No. 4 Gophers softball team (45-3, 15-1 Big Ten) on Wednesday, as it took down North Dakota State (20-28, 7-5 Summit League) in a mid-week doubleheader at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
The Gophers jumped on the board early in game one when right fielder Maddie Houlihan continued her hot streak with a two-run double in the first inning. In her last seven games, Houlihan is 13-for-25 with 10 RBI.
“The thing about Maddie is she has so many different ways to beat you,” said head coach Jessica Allister. “She’s fast, she can beat out infield hits, she’s got power … she’s just the complete package offensively.”
Senior Sara Groenewegen again pitched lights-out in the circle and finished her 16th complete game of the season with just one earned run. In addition, she tied current Gophers pitching coach Piper Ritter for second-most career strikeouts in program history with 1,122.
“I’m so proud of her, she deserves every single thing — she’s worked so hard for this,” said catcher Kendyl Lindaman. “It’s amazing just catching her.”
NDSU pitcher KK Leddy rebounded to shut down the Minnesota offense until the sixth, when an Allie Arneson solo shot closed the Gophers scoring.
The Bison would add a run in the final frame, but the Gophers held on for a 3-1 victory.
The Gophers once again started fast in game two, this time using a Sydney Dwyer RBI single to take a first inning two-run lead. Dwyer extended her Big Ten lead in RBI with her 61st and 62nd on the season.
“Dwyer’s RBIs are a testament not only to her coming up big with runners on, but she hits with runners on a lot,” Allister said.
Amber Fiser continued her improvement in the circle, pitching a complete game shutout. She is now 11-0 in her freshman season and boasts an ERA of 1.61.
“I think watching Sara [Groenewegen] and Tori [Finucane] and their emotions on the mound has really taught me a lot,” Fiser said. “Going in there and throwing one pitch at a time, not worrying about the last pitch has really helped me a lot.”
The big hit of the night came in the bottom of the sixth, when Lindaman hit a hard liner over the left field fence for her 16th home run of the season, which broke the program single-season record.
“It feels unbelievable right now,” said Lindaman. “I think just seeing my teammates and my coaches [greeting me] made it that much better.”
Lindaman has won six Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards — out of just 11 possible.
For the Gophers, a midweek, non-conference doubleheader provides a break from the grind of the Big Ten, but they aren’t letting it affect their focus.
“Every game we play we have the mentality of ‘This team’s in our way,’” Fiser said. “We really focus on one game at a time, one pitch at a time.”