Make it three consecutive for the Gophers' softball team.
For the third year in a row, Minnesota was crowned the Big Ten champion after a delayed championship game Sunday at Madison, Wisconsin. The No. 2 Gophers played No. 4 Northwestern in the championship and won 9-6.
Minnesota is the first team since Michigan from 1996 to 1998 to win three-straight Big Ten titles.
"A lot of kids have been apart of all three championships and some ... only know winning championships, so they've drawn on that experience [and] it was kind of a collective effort from everybody," head coach Jamie Trachsel said. "Winning anything, let alone a tournament championship, is so challenging and so tough and to be able to win three says a lot about players on all those teams."
The Gophers got off to a hot start as they scored four runs in the first inning.
After second baseman MaKenna Partain led off with a walk, catcher Kendyl Lindaman hit an RBI double to bring in Partain to score. Minnesota next scored off a double steal as Lindaman stole home and right fielder Maddie Houlihan beat the throw to steal second. Centerfielder Dani Wagner hit a two-run home run to move the lead to 4-0 at the end of the inning.
Minnesota wasn’t done scoring as Lindaman hit another RBI double, which scored left fielder Ellee Jensen. Houlihan, who won Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, hit an RBI triple to right field that scored Lindaman.
"I think it was huge getting on them early, that was our game plan," Lindaman said. "Just to be aggressive right away, attack them early, so it's hard for them to come back. And that's exactly what we did."
In the second inning, Northwestern fought back with its own offense to score three runs. But Minnesota was still hot as shortstop Allie Arneson hit a two-run home run in the third. Partain finished the inning on a high note scoring on a wild pitch after the bases were loaded.
Pitcher Sydney Smith was put into the game in the third and she stopped the first seven batters she faced.
It was too late for Northwestern as it tried to make a comeback. The Wildcats scored a run in the fifth, sixth and seventh inning, but that wouldn’t be enough for them as pitcher Carlie Brandt struck out the last batter to win the championship for Minnesota.
"It was good for us to play a good team and good for different people to step up in big situations," Houlihan said. "We just have to keep the momentum going and know that if we play well we can beat anyone."
Minnesota has a comeback win to advance to Big Ten championship
On Saturday, the Gophers played the No. 3 team in the tournament, Indiana. They won 9-4 after a comeback in the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the second, Partain singled up the middle allowing Arneson and Wagner to score. Jensen scored on a passed ball to have the Gophers up 3-0 to end the second inning.
Indiana got two runners on base in the top of the fifth before a rain delay hit, which lasted almost two hours.
When play resumed, Indiana scored four runs in the inning. Indiana third baseman Katie Lacefield hit a two-run double to take the lead at 4-3.
Pitcher Amber Fiser was switched for Smith after allowing three earned runs. Fiser finished the day with six strikeouts.
The Gophers were not threatened by Indiana as they bounced back and scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Houlihan scored off an RBI single by third baseman Danielle Parlich to tie the game, and Wagner scored on the next at-bat on an error to take the lead.
Minnesota sealed the deal in the bottom of the sixth scoring four runs after the team started the inning with four straight hits. Lindaman started the scoring with a double, Houlihan had a two-RBI single and Parlich hit a single to score a run.
Minnesota shuts out Wisconsin
After seven hours of delays and one hour and 38 minutes of game play, Minnesota got through to advance to the second day of the tournament.
The Gophers faced No. 7 ranked Wisconsin on Friday and won 6-0.
"We just tried to stay loose and have fun with it because if you make the situation stressful or get down about not playing you won't be in the right mindset," Houlihan said.
The first rain delay took nearly 45 minutes and the second delay spanned four hours and 50 minutes. These delays all happened before the second inning.
After the delay, the Gophers scored off an error in order for Partain to score and Sydney Dwyer was able to get an RBI to help Lindaman score.
Minnesota didn’t lose stride in the second inning as it added another two runs to extend the lead to 4-0.
In the bottom of the fourth another delay happened, only this time it wasn’t a rain delay — it was a chopper delay. A helicopter was brought out to dry the fields.
After seven strikeouts, Fiser was subbed out for Smith to start pitching the fifth inning.
The Gophers scored a run in the fifth and sixth inning to finish the 6-0 victory over Wisconsin.
"When you're at the field for 11 hours to play one game, and you have to warm up three different times and have three or four different interruptions, you don't get to go back to the hotel and you're just kinda on call," Trachsel told the media Friday. "That's a tough day for anybody and I'm really proud of how we handled that."