March 25, 2012
Behind back-to-back home runs from Erica Meyer and Erika Smyth, the University of Minnesota softball team used an eight-run seventh inning to rout Illinois, 14-4. The victory not only give the Golden Gophers (19-9, 1-2 Big Ten) their first Big Ten win of the season, but it also marks second-year head coach Jessica Allister’s 50th career victory.
The Gophers entered the seventh up 6-4, but an eight-run inning sealed the deal for Minnesota. Meyer and Smyth sparked the offense by leading off the inning with back-to-back home runs. The team would bat around the lineup and garner six more runs, including Meyer’s second home run of the inning, which was a three-run shot to right field.
Smyth went 3-for-5 at the plate with a home run and four RBI while Meyer was 2-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI. Smyth’s four-bagger was the first of her young career.
Minnesota began the game with hot bats as they jumped on Illinois in the first inning by posting three runs on the board. After getting one out, the Gophers would be granted three walks to load the bases. A Madie Eckstrom single up the middle would bring in one run while Smyth followed with a two-RBI single to shallow right field.
Eckstrom finished the day with three hits, three RBI and scoring two runs.
Gopher starting pitcher Alissa Koch would shutdown the Fighting Illini as she pitched two shutout innings. It was in the third inning that Illinois finally got on when Meredith Hackett belted a two-run homer to left field.
The Maroon and Gold answered in the fourth by getting the two runs back while also putting another on the board to make it 6-2. Eckstrom and Smyth came up with the heroics again as they knocked in the trio of Gopher runs.
Illinois would attempt to make a comeback in the final innings by scoring one run in both the fifth and sixth, but Minnesota slammed the door on the Illini comeback hopes in the seventh with their eight-run inning.
Minnesota recorded 10 hits on the day with all of them coming from the freshman class. Kaitlyn Richardson joined the other three newcomers in having a multi-hit day by notching two hits of her own.
Kimminau, who relieved Koch in the fifth, closed out the game for the Gophers and was credited with the two-inning save. Koch garnered the win while allowing four runs, five hits and fanning five batters in five innings of work.
Minnesota plays at home next weekend for their home opener against Big Ten newcomer Nebraska. The Gophers, who have played 28-straight games on the road, welcome the Cornhuskers for a doubleheader on Saturday, which is slated for noon and 2 p.m. The two will then turn around and end the series with a game at noon on Sunday, which will be live on the Big Ten Network.