April 14, 2012
The University of Minnesota softball team split with Northwestern in a pair of games that ended early due to the eight-run rule but with different teams coming out on top. The Golden Gophers (23-15, 4-7 Big Ten) put together an all-around impressive game in the opener to win 10-2 in five innings. Game two was a different story as the Wildcats (17-21, 5-6 Big Ten) pounced on the Maroon and Gold to pull off an 8-0 victory in six innings.
Game One: Minnesota 10, Northwestern 2 (5 innings)
Behind an Erica Meyer grand slam in the fourth, the Golden Gophers paired back-to-back four-run innings en route to their 10-2 five-inning victory over Northwestern. Shutdown pitcher Sara Moulton backed up the potent Maroon and Gold offense as she allowed only two hits in the contest.
The Gophers’ eight-run rule triumph is their ninth of the year, which is the second most for a single season behind 1999 when the Maroon and Gold had 10.
Minnesota was nearly handed the lead in the first inning as Northwestern loaded the bases by surrendering two walks and a Kari Dorle single. Freshman Madie Eckstrom would record a RBI walk to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead. The Maroon and Gold would add another run on a two-out Dannie Skrove single up the middle, making the score 2-0 after the top half of the first.
Eckstrom was walked three times in as many plate appearances in the game, which gave her no official at bat for the contest.
The Wildcats answered in the bottom half of the first and second as they plated one run in each to even the score, 2-2.
After a scoreless third inning on both sides, the Golden Gophers took advantage of a Northwestern error and pieced together a pair of hits to load the bases and set the stage for Erica Meyer. The freshman from Arden Hills, Minn. wouldn’t disappoint as she belted a grand slam over the right field fence, giving Minnesota a 6-2 lead.
Moulton made quick work of the Wildcats in the fourth inning as she notched a three up, three down inning to get the Gopher bats back to the plate.
In the fifth, the Maroon and Gold had its first five batters reach base safely. Minnesota would garner a pair of runs on an Erika Smyth double to left center. After having Northwestern switch pitchers for the second time, Bree Blanchette would make it back-to-back doubles as she put a ball in the right center gap to score another two runs.
Blanchette was the lone Gopher with a multi-hit game as she went 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBI and scored once.
The Gophers would take a 10-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth and only three outs away from snagging the eight-run mercy rule victory.
Minnesota’s defense would help Moulton in the bottom half of the inning as they pulled off a three up, three down inning.
Game Two: Northwestern 8, Minnesota 0 (6 innings)
The Golden Gophers’ offense didn’t carry over to the second game as Northwestern shutout Minnesota 8-0. The Wildcats used a four-run sixth inning to end the game in six innings, due to the eight-run mercy rule.
The Wildcats would start with a bang as they claimed a 3-0 lead in the bottom half of the first to put the pressure on the Gophers.
After allowing the early runs, Minnesota pitcher Alissa Koch would settle down and throw scoreless innings in the second and third.
Minnesota’s best chance to score came in the third when Meyer reached on an error and fellow freshman Kaitlyn Richardson walked with one out. The two would advance on a wild pitch, but a Gopher strikeout ended the team’s rally.
Northwestern would inch their lead to 4-0 in the fourth, but it was the damage accumulated in the sixth that negated the Gophers’ chances of pulling off a comeback.
The Maroon and Gold collected the first out, but then Koch would place the next two runners on base. With the leadoff hitter on deck, freshman Kelsey Kimminau came in to pitch.
Kimminau would walk a batter and then surrender a single to left before getting the second out of the inning on a force at home. The final blow would come on a Adrienne Monka double to center, which scored three additional runs to make it 8-0.
The two Big Ten Conference foes square off again tomorrow in a rubber match slated for 1 p.m.
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Cowger loves to sit up in the press box by herself looking out onto the field and working on homework.
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