Six Inches from Sweeping: Michigan Escapes Minneapolis in Extra Innings

Go Gophers! Bree Blanchette
Go Gophers!
Bree Blanchette
Go Gophers!

April 22, 2012

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In front of a Jane Sage Cowles Stadium record-setting crowd of 1,028 fans, the University of Minnesota softball team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but No. 20 Michigan battled back to avoid a Gopher sweep by pulling off a 5-3 10-inning victory. Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Golden Gophers (28-16, 7-8 Big Ten) still claimed the series win over the nationally-ranked Wolverines (32-13, 12-3 Big Ten) for the first time since 1983.

It seemed that the Golden Gophers were going to pull off the sweep over No. 20 Michigan in the ninth inning as Bree Blanchette lined a ball down the left field line, but the hit would keep bending foul and eventually hit the bottom of the wall just six inches in foul territory. In the ensuing inning, the Wolverines would cancel a six-inning scoring drought by plating two runs, including a solo homer from winning pitcher Haylie Wagner. The Maroon and Gold attempted to rally in the bottom of the 10th inning, but it was too late as they stranded a pair of runners to end the game, 5-3.

In a rollercoaster-like game, the Gophers were the first to get on the board as junior Kari Dorle launched a three-run home run in the first inning. Dorle’s bomb brought in freshmen Erica Meyer and Kaitlyn Richardson, who walked and singled in the two previous at bats. The homer was her second of the series and team-leading ninth of the season.

Dorle was the lone Gopher to punch in any runs as she recorded three RBI in her lone hit of the game. Meyer reached base in all but one of her plate appearances as she went 1-for-2 with three walks.

Michigan would threaten in the second by loading the bases, but the Gophers’ defense would hold and keep their 3-0 lead.

It was in the following inning that the Wolverines struck as they plated three runs of their own. Michigan was able to piece together four hits and a walk to even up the game at three.

The Gophers’ attempted all possibilities to pull out the victory as sophomore hurler Sara Moulton was given the start for the third-straight game, but she only pitched three and 1/3 innings. The Eagan, Minn. native was pulled in the fourth inning, and senior Alissa Koch came in relief. Koch would tossed the following five innings before being relieved by Kelsey Kimminau in the 10th.

The score remained knotted entering the eighth inning, but the Wolverines were back on the prowl and looking to take the lead.

With one out and Lauren Sweet on second, Michigan center fielder Bree Evans singled up the middle. Sweet ignored Wolverine head coach Carol Hutchins’ stop sign and would test the arm of Blanchette. The Eagan, Minn. native quickly fielded the ball and tossed it on a line to Dorle at home to throw Sweet out at home to end the inning.

Blanchette’s heroics nearly carried over to the bottom of the ninth inning as it was in then that her hit faded six inches foul and negated what would have been a game-winning hit to score Dannie Skrove.

Minnesota looks to shake off this loss and savor the series victory as they hit the road for their final away series against Penn State. The Gophers will play a doubleheader on Saturday, April 28 with the series finale the following day.