The No. 6 Gophers softball team won their second Big Ten series of the season this weekend.
Minnesota (30-3, 5-1 Big Ten) took two of three games against Illinois (24-10, 4-2 Big Ten) to continue its hot start to the conference schedule.
The weekend started with a bang on Friday, when the Gophers offense showed its strength once again.
Though relatively quiet through the first four innings, Minnesota held a 2-0 lead heading to the top of the fifth.
Then the bats exploded.
The Gophers put up a 10 runs in the fifth inning, with catcher Kendyl Lindaman hitting two home runs, including a grand slam. The freshman has 11 home runs on the season and leads the team in slugging percentage at .831.
“There were runners on both times I was up, so I wasn’t looking to hit home runs, I was just looking to score [the runners],” Lindaman said.
MaKenna Partain followed Lindaman’s grand slam with a solo shot of her own, generating a one-two punch that makes the middle of Minnesota’s lineup dangerous.
“[Lindaman’s] presence in the middle of the lineup is huge,” said head coach Jessica Allister. “It’s important to have MaKenna Partain and Sydney Dwyer behind [Lindaman] … to force pitchers to pitch to [Lindaman].”
Senior pitcher Sara Groenewegen completed the 12-0 run-rule victory by shutting the Illini down in the fifth.
Groenewegen — who ranked third in the NCAA in ERA heading into the weekend — pitched in all three games against Illinois.
“Obviously it’s a lot more than normal … but I’m going to do whatever it takes to get some wins,” Groenewegen said.
While the Gophers cruised in the series opener, Saturday’s game wasn’t as easy.
After building a three-run lead, Minnesota saw it evaporate in a span of a half-inning. Illinois took advantage of two Gophers errors and a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth to tie the score at three.
After a scoreless sixth inning, the Gophers were unable to put runs on the board in the seventh, setting the Illini up for a potential walk-off scenario.
After putting runners on first and second with one out, Illinois capitalized on that opportunity, using a walk-off single to beat Minnesota 4-3.
“We left some runners on and didn’t take advantage of some opportunities [offensively],” Allister said. “If you let good teams hang around, that’s going to come back to bite you.”
As they’ve done multiple times this season, the Gophers bounced back on Sunday afternoon, using another strong performance from Groenewegen to grind out a victory.
Outfielder Dani Wagner hit a two-run home run in the seventh to seal the 4-0 victory for Minnesota.