No. 22 Minnesota softball traveled to Austin, Texas for the Longhorn Invitational over the weekend, taking on Texas Southern and No. 9 Texas.
The Gophers came out of the weekend 4-1, defeating Texas Southern twice and taking two out of three from the higher-ranked Longhorns.
"It was a great weekend, to come down here and [play a] three-game series against a quality opponent — Texas, a top-10 team — and beat them on their home field," said head coach Jamie Trachsel.
The Gophers began the weekend on Friday with a 7-0 victory over Texas Southern. Freshman Natalie DenHartog went 3-4, belted two home runs and drove in four runs. Sophomore Hannah Bailey took the mound for her first career start and pitched a complete game shutout.
"That's not a easy situation, there's a lot of excitement and a lot of emotions," Trachsel said. "She was attacking hitters and our defense made plays. ... It was a really great performance for her."
The Gophers rode their momentum into the second game of the night facing Texas, beating the Longhorns 4-1. Hope Brandner got the Gophers going in the first with an RBI single and DenHartog added insurance in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run double. Sydney Smith started the game, throwing four scoreless innings, and Amber Fiser finished it off. The duo gave up just three hits combined.
Minnesota began Saturday with a rematch against the Longhorns. Minnesota got on the board first thanks to a Carlie Brandt RBI single in the fourth. However, the Longhorns scored three in the bottom of the fourth and plated two more in the bottom of the sixth to extend their lead to 5-1. DenHartog gave the Gophers life in the top of the seventh as she smashed her third home run of the weekend to cut the Longhorn lead in half, 5-3, though it was not enough to overcome the deficit.
"She's got a lot of confidence," Trachsel said of DenHartog. "She has natural power and is a big strong kid, and when she hits it, it is going to go somewhere."
The team rebounded in the second game of the day against Texas Southern, beating the Tigers 7-4. Smith took the mound for the second time that weekend and threw 6 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts and no runs. MaKenna Partain provided the bulk of the offense for the Gophers, going 3-4 and knocking in three runs.
"I really just love watching her fight; she's a competitor and she doesn't give up," DenHartog said of Partain. "With a 0-0 count or a 0-2 count, she's someone who is still a threat to hit no matter what."
The Gophers finished off the weekend against Texas. Minnesota scored first for the fifth-straight game, plating two in the first inning. Brandner added an RBI single in the third, which was all Minnesota needed, winning 3-1. Fiser pitched six innings, allowing just one run on eight hits and Rachel Lowary finished it off in the seventh, getting the save.
The win against Texas gave Trachsel her 300th career win as a head coach.
"We're super happy for her and super happy to have her as our coach, and hitting that 300 mark just shows the good things that have happened and the good things that will continue to come," DenHartog said.