Fans filled the stands of Jane Sage Cowles Stadium for the first time in 2019 as the Gophers softball team faced off against Purdue for the home opener on a brisk Friday afternoon.
The Gophers (23-9, 4-0 Big Ten) sent the Minnesota faithful home in a happy mood. The team beat the Boilermakers (24-11, 2-2 Big Ten) 5-1 behind dominant pitching and opportunistic offense.
"It was awesome, we had a great turnout," head coach Jamie Trachsel said. "I thought [the crowd] had good energy, you could tell the our kids were enjoying it. You could feel their support and I thought our dugout did a good job."
Coming into Friday, Minnesota boasted a 28-1 record at home the last two seasons.
The Gophers jumped out to a quick lead in the first inning as Natalie DenHartog drove in the first run of the game on an RBI single. Katelyn Kemmetmueller then drew a walk to load the bases, applying the pressure to Purdue starter Kaitlynn Moody who threw two consecutive wild pitches. Those scored two more for the Gophers who ended the first inning leading 3-0.
Wild pitches became a theme for the game as Purdue had another costly one in the bottom of the second that brought in Taylor Chell, extending the Gophers' lead to 4-0.
DenHartog struck again in the third with a liner-drive into right-center, driving in Macy Gill from first to extend their lead to five. DenHartog was credited with a double as she was tagged out trying to stretch it into a triple. The freshman finished 2-3 on the day with two RBIs, grabbing the team-lead for RBIs with 34 on the season.
The team had just four hits but remained patient at the plate, drawing eight walks.
"We had really good discipline," Trachsel said. "It's still a quality at-bat whether you get a hit or get a walk or get hit by a pitch, they all equal the same thing."
Amber Fiser started the game for Gophers and carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before a leadoff single by Rylee Platusic broke it up.
"They kept putting the balls in play," said Fiser, who wasn't completely aware of her hot start. "I never thought about anyone who actually got any hits so I just kept trying to go at them and put it in play knowing the defense has my back behind me."
Fiser stifled the Purdue hitters all afternoon, allowing three hits, two walks and striking out eight. The junior gave up just one run, which came as the Boilermakers looked to rally in the seventh. Fiser closed out the game with the bases loaded, retiring the last two batters with a strikeout and a weak grounder to first. The performance lowered her team-best ERA to 1.48.
"She did a good job and kept them off balance," Trachsel said. "She's done this long enough now ... hitters make adjustments and it's not easier as they go through the lineup the second or third time they see you. They got a couple pitches that they put in play and hit hard but we always say it's about finding those big pitches in big moments and she found a way to do that in the seventh inning to close out the game."
The Gophers and Purdue will meet for the second game of the series at 1 p.m. on Saturday.