May 9, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. - With the third-seeded Minnesota softball team trailing No. 6 seeded Purdue 3-2 in the sixth inning in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal round Friday afternoon, senior Bree Blanchette belted a grand slam to vault the Gophers to a 6-3 victory and a berth in the conference semifinals. Minnesota will play No. 7 seed Ohio State for a spot in the championship game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
The victory improved the Gophers' 2014 record to 39-9 and improved their all-time record at the Big Ten Tournament to 10-13. Their win total of 39 is their highest since 1999.
The game got off to an auspicious start for the Gophers when Kaitlyn Richardson launched her ninth home run of the season to center field in the first inning. The homer was the 29th of the Phoenix, Ariz. native's career, tying her with fellow junior Tyler Walker for the third-most in school history.
The Boilermakers answered in the third inning, however, plating a pair of unearned runs to take a 2-1 lead. Purdue's Tori Chiodo doubled her team's lead in the fifth inning with a solo home run.
Minnesota entered Thursday's contest with a 1-7 mark when trailing after five innings, but Maroon and Gold wouldn't go away quietly after the shortstop Walker gave the team a spark by making an over-the-shoulder catch that turned into an inning-ending double play in the top of the inning.
Richardson, Taylor LeMay, and Sara Groenewegen reached in order to begin the frame and Erica Meyer drew a bases-loaded walk to trim the Gophers' deficit to one, setting the stage for Blanchette's heroics. With the bases loaded, Blanchette lined a 1-1 Lilly Fecho delivery over the fence in left center field, putting the Gophers up by three.
After Groenewegen and starter Sara Moulton pitched three innings apiece, Nikki Anderson earned the save by securing the final three outs, coming in with two runners on base. The save was Anderson's second of the season. Groenewegen is now 13-2 after being credited with the win.
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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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