MADISON, Wis. - It took three days, numerous delays and 24 runs for Minnesota softball to earn their third-consecutive Big Ten Tournament title. A four-run first inning sparked a heavy offensive game as Minnesota (39-15) defeated Northwestern (36-17) 9-4 in the title game Sunday afternoon. Minnesota becomes the second team in Big Ten history to win back-to-back-to-back titles after Michigan accomplished the same feat from 1996-98.
"It was a complete team effort not just today but the entire weekend," said head coach Jamie Trachsel. "We found different ways to win each game and different people stepping up at different times to make it a complete team effort."
Kendyl Lindaman led the Gophers at the plate going 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI. Three-hole hitter, Maddie Houlihan went 2-for-2 with two walks, a run and a RBI.
"It means so much. I think it just shows how tough we are and how competitive we can be," said Houlihan who was name the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. "When we play our best ball we can beat anyone. So many people stepped up to the plate and scored different runs in different ways and that was exciting to see a bunch of people contributing.
Minnesota wasted no time waking up the bats coming to the plate as the visiting team. MaKenna Partain drew a leadoff walk before Lindaman connected on her first double of the season to bring in the game's first run. With runners at the corners following a single by Houlihan, Minnesota executed the double steal as Lindaman crossed the plate while the throw to second to catch Houlihan was not in time. Dani Wagner capped off the four-run inning with a two-run home run over the left center wall.
The Gophers put up another crooked number in the second as Lindaman notched back-to-back RBI doubles. Houlihan followed up the double with a triple to the right field wall scoring Lindaman to make it 6-0.
Right-hander starter Amber Fiser needed 11 pitches to work through the first inning. Northwestern in the second responded with some offense of their own plating three runs on three hits.
The Northwestern response only sparked the Minnesota offense as Allie Arneson belted a two-run home run in the third scoring Wagner who tripled to begin the inning. Adding an insurance run in the fourth was Partain who scored on a wild pitch after the bases were loaded following back-to-back-to-back walks making it 9-3.
Sydney Smith entered the game out of the pen in the third as she collected the win tossing 3.2 innings of work. Smith retired the first seven hitters faced before Northwestern plated a run in the fifth and sixth to cut down the Minnesota lead.
Minnesota's bats were kept quiet in the final three frames as Carlie Brandt entered the circle in the final frame. A two-out double scored the sixth run for Northwestern, but buckling down was Brandt as a strikeout gave Minnesota the victory.
Wagner, Houlihan, Lindaman and Partain were all named to the Big Ten Tournament team for their outstanding performances.
Earning the Big Ten automatic bid, Minnesota will find out where they will head to for the NCAA Tournament tonight at 9 p.m. The Selection Show is set to air on ESPN2.
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