The Gophers softball team picked up another pair of wins over the weekend in the ESPN St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational, a four-game series against some of the top teams in the country.
Gophers fall to OSU, beat FSU Friday
The Gophers dropped their first game of the series against No. 16 Oklahoma State 2-0 in a defensive battle.
After two scoreless innings, Oklahoma State hit a deep shot to left in the top of the third that was nearly snagged by outfielder Natalie DenHartog but dropped over the fence for a two-run home run. Pitcher Amber Fiser closed out the inning preventing any more damage, and she finished the game for Minnesota without allowing another run, striking out 12 along the way. However, the Gophers could not produce on the offensive end. While Minnesota matched Oklahoma State's four hits, it couldn't get on the scoreboard.
With one last chance in the bottom of the seventh, the Gophers offensive struggles continued. Three consecutive ground outs closed the game as the Gophers fell in their first ranked contest of the season.
A few hours later, Minnesota returned to the field for another ranked contest against No. 5 Florida State, this time securing a 7-6 victory.
Trailing 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh, the Gophers battled to keep their hopes alive. Infielder MaKenna Partain hit a leadoff double to left-center. Shortstop Carlie Brandt brought Partain home for the game-tying run with a triple to the left. DenHartog reached for the Gophers by way of intentional walk and later advanced to second, putting runners on second and third. Infielder Emily Hansen reached on a fielder's choice as Brandt was thrown out at home. DenHartog also got thrown out at home as infielder Katelyn Kemmetmueller reached on a fielder's choice.
With one more chance, the Gophers finally cashed in.
Catcher Sydney Strelow stepped up to the plate and connected, hitting a walk-off single and bringing in the game-winning run for Minnesota. Strelow also hit a two-run home run in the second, giving the Gophers their first runs of the day.
"I was trying to keep calm. I've been in big moments before, and I knew my team had my back behind me," Strelow said. "I was looking for an outside pitch, and that's what I got and I drove it."
Pitcher Autumn Pease pitched six innings over two stints in the game, allowing only three hits and striking out six.
Controversial call costs Minnesota Saturday
The Gophers dropped a 2-1 contest to Virginia Tech in their second close defensive battle of the weekend.
Trailing 2-0 in the fifth, outfielder Brooke Vander Heide reached on a single to center. After advancing to second, Partain hit a deep fly to center. Vander Heide appeared to tag up and crossed home plate, but was called for leaving early.
Still trailing 2-0, the Gophers finally got on the board in the sixth. DenHartog reached with a double, and Hansen brought her home with a single up the middle. The Gophers offense stalled the rest of the way as Virginia Tech held on to their one-run advantage.
Fiser struck out 11 in six innings, allowing eight hits on the day.
Gophers top Missouri Sunday
After falling to No. 19 Missouri a week earlier, the Gophers bounced back with a 10-1 win to split the weekend series 2-2.
Scoreless through three innings, the Gophers exploded in the fourth. DenHartog and Hansen both reached on singles and Kemmetmueller walked to load the bases. Strelow continued her big weekend with an RBI single and designated player Josey White brought in two more runs off a double. Outfielder Kianna Jones added a sacrifice fly to bring in another as the Gophers took a 5-0 lead.
It was redemption following a 7-4 loss to Missouri the last weekend.
"I think we were much more prepared for Missouri this time, and we just had a totally different mindset going into this game," Partain said.
The Gophers added five more runs in the sixth and seventh innings to secure the run rule victory over Missouri.
"We had some great wins. Florida State, a great comeback there and obviously putting a really good, complete game together today on championship Sunday," head coach Jamie Trachsel said. "That was a big deal — responded really well from yesterday, and we did a lot of good things and we have some things we need to work on."