The Gophers opened March with four wins in five games.
No. 23 Minnesota (11-6) won four out of five at the Wildcat Invitational in Tucson, Arizona this weekend. The Gophers swept their two-game series against Drake (11-9), winning 2-0 on Friday and 4-1 on Saturday. Minnesota also defeated Kent State on Friday by a score of 12-1 in six innings and beat No. 19 James Madison (7-3) 3-1 on Sunday. The Gophers' only blemish was a 2-0 loss to No. 12 Arizona (14-5) on Saturday.
Minnesota's offense had a big fifth inning to lift the Gophers over the Dukes. After right fielder Maddie Houlihan homered to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning, Minnesota scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth against James Madison pitcher Megan Good. Shortstop Allie Arneson smacked a single to left field, driving in two runs. Minnesota earned two more runs on a fielding error and a walk.
"We were resilient today," said head coach Jamie Trachsel. "We weren't perfect. We gave up a run on a couple of miscues on our end. Houlihan came up with a huge hit to answer in the bottom of that inning. When you're facing one of the best pitchers in the country, it's going to take one or two at-bats to get things started. That was one of our best innings of the year against one of the best pitchers in the country."
Pitcher Amber Fiser threw a complete-game shutout, striking out 12 Dukes while allowing five hits. Fiser's record is now 7-4 this season.
Gophers sweep Drake
Minnesota defeated Drake 2-0 on Friday and 4-1 on Saturday. On Friday, left fielder Natalie DenHartog led the way for the Gophers offensively. DenHartog's home run in the sixth inning extended Minnesota's lead to 2-0. It was DenHartog's fourth home run of the year. Fiser pitched a complete-game one-hitter, striking out 12 Bulldogs.
On Saturday, Fiser threw a season-high 13 strikeouts and pitched another complete game. Center fielder Ali Lindner's two-run single in the second inning catalyzed the Gophers' offense.
Gophers score a dozen in victory over Kent State
Designated player MaKenna Partain had a productive game against Kent State.
Partain drove in two runs and hit her first home run of the season as the Gophers defeated the Golden Flashes 12-1 in six innings.
"Hitting that first one feels good, but adding another run feels better," Partain said. "I'm excited to start seeing the ball better."
First baseman Hope Brandner homered twice and drove in five runs. Pitcher Sydney Smith won her third game of the season. Smith threw six innings, striking out six while allowing three hits.
Trachsel said Partain had a good weekend.
"She's a tough out," Trachsel said. "There's nothing she can't hit. She's a smart hitter. She can make adjustments throughout the game ... and at-bat. That's probably her most complete weekend of the year. It was good timing because we needed her."
Arizona blanks Minnesota
No. 12 Arizona defeated Minnesota on Saturday 2-0. Wildcats shortstop Jessie Harper hit a two-run home run off of Smith in the bottom of the first inning. It was all the offense Arizona needed. Wildcats pitcher Taylor McQuillin threw a complete-game shutout, striking out 10 Gophers while allowing two hits.
Minnesota will face Texas Southern (1-9) and No. 9 Texas (16-3) next weekend in Austin, Texas. The Gophers will play the Longhorns three times and will play the Tigers twice. Minnesota will play Texas Friday-Sunday and Texas Southern on Friday and Saturday.
"We faced a ton of good pitchers," Partain said. "Coming out with four out of five wins was awesome. We would like to get five, but it was great."