March 30, 2013
EVANSTON, ILL. – Minnesota hit six home runs, with sophomore third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson and freshman right fielder Kayla Wenner each hitting two, as the Gophers defeated Northwestern, 14-9, on Saturday afternoon.
Minnesota (21-11, 4-1 Big Ten) scored multiple runs in each of the first four innings to open a 12-3 lead against the Wildcats (15-13, 1-3), and 11 of the team's 14 hits went for extra bases.
Facing a run-rule loss in both the fifth and sixth innings, Northwestern was able to extend the game with six combined runs in those frames to pull within 13-9.
But the Gophers added an insurance run in the top of the seventh to push the lead back to five runs and then closed out their fourth Big Ten win of the season.
Richardson, who broke her nose on a defensive play at third base in Friday’s 6-2 loss to the Wildcats, set the tone for the day early on by driving a ball over the wall in right center to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead in the first.
The Wildcats responded by scratching out an unearned run in the bottom of the first, but Minnesota came right back with three runs in the top of the second. Wenner crushed a pitch deep over the wall in center with one out, and senior catcher Kari Dorle added a two-run double to left center to make it 5-1.
The Gophers rallied to score four more runs with two outs in the top of the third. Freshman first baseman Paige Palkovich lined a double to the wall in left center, and Wenner then hit her second home run to center in as many innings. This drive by Wenner, her fourth of the season, ricocheted off the flag pole in straightaway center.
Sophomore second baseman Erika Smyth followed with a triple to the wall in deep center, her second of the season, and sophomore left fielder Erica Meyer doubled to right to make it 8-1 in favor of the Gophers. Sophomore shortstop Tyler Walker then increased the lead to 9-1 by doubling to right field before getting thrown out at third trying to stretch it to a triple.
Northwestern picked up a pair of runs on two hits and a wild pitch in the bottom of the third to cut Minnesota’s lead to 9-3.
But, once again, Minnesota added to its lead with three more runs in the fourth inning, including Richardson’s second home run of the game. Richardson’s team-leading seventh HR of the season was a one-out line shot that quickly cleared the fence in center to push Minnesota’s advantage to 10-3.
After freshman designated player Sydney Fabian drew a walk in a pinch hit at bat, Palkovich swatted a two-run home run that cleared the wall in left center and bounced off Welsh-Ryan Arena for a nine-run lead.
But the Wildcats scored twice in the bottom of the fifth to extend the game when Minnesota had a chance to win by the run rule. Junior Bree Blanchette opened the sixth with her sixth home run of the season to put the Gophers back up by eight runs, 13-5.
Once again, though, Northwestern avoided an early end to the game, as it scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth to pull within four runs at 13-9.
The Gophers kept scoring, though, as Walker singled up the middle to open the seventh, then advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Dorle. Richardson tagged on the insurance run and recorded her fourth RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Sophomore Kelsey Kimminau became Minnesota’s third pitcher of the game by working a scoreless seventh to close out the three-hour game. Junior right-hander Sara Moulton made the start in the circle and improved to 18-7 by going 4.1 innings and allowing seven hits and five runs (three earned).
Six Minnesota players had two hits in the game. Richardson was 2-for-4 with four RBI and scored a pair of runs, while Wenner was 2-for-3 with three RBI and a pair of runs scored. Walker and Meyer each went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, while Palkovich was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and two RBI and Smyth was 2-for-3 with a run scored.
The teams wrap up their three-game series on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. CT in a game that is scheduled to be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
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Gophers Advance to Championship Sunday
Minnesota pulled out a 7-5 victory on a long, cold and rainy night in Seattle.
Gophers Playing Must Win Game
Minnesota fell 5-2 to NCAA Regional host Washington this afternoon and will play a must win game at 9 p.m.