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Houlihan Comes Up Clutch In Minnesota Victory

(Photo Courtesy of Minnesota Athletics)

MINNEAPOLIS – A week ago Maddie Houlihan went hitless.

In the three games the Gophers played in the regional, Minnesota’s No. 2 hitter and one of the team’s unquestioned leaders, Maddie Houlihan struggled, going 0-9.

Today, in the team’s biggest game of the season, she bounced back and provided the two biggest hits of the game.

“We just kept telling our kids, ‘breath and take a deep breath,” Gophers head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “[I’m proud of] our fight, our resiliency, our determination and I think Maddie [Houlihan] led that whole charge.”

A four-run fourth inning propelled the No. 7 Minnesota Gophers to a 5-3 victory over the No. 10 LSU Tigers in the first game of the best-of-three super regional on Friday in Minneapolis.

With the LSU up 1-0 in the third, Houlihan got them on the board with her seventh home run of the year, a solo shot to left center. Houlihan got the rally started in the fourth with a double off the right field wall that stayed in the park by just a few feet. The senior finished the game 2-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

“Today was my day to step up for the team,” Houlihan said. “I think the exciting thing moving forward is that we didn’t play our best ball today and we still came out with the win.”

Amber Fiser, who pitched all 22 innings in the Gophers regional tournament, got the nod again in this game and picked up right where she left off, pitching a complete game.

Fiser admitted she wasn’t as sharp as her pitching a week ago but was able to limit the big innings to keep the Gophers in the game.

LSU had a baserunner in each inning but scored in just two. Fiser finished with seven strikeouts, while giving up eight hits and two earned runs. She finished with 147 pitches. Fiser reached the 30-win mark with the win, the third most in a single season in Gopher history.

“[LSU] stuck in there, I don’t know how many times and it felt like I had so many 20 pitch at-bats,” Fiser said. “It wasn’t my best day today, but I’ll come back tomorrow.”

While Fiser didn’t pitch her best game, Trachsel thought it was one of her best mental performances of the year.

To not have your best stuff and know you are facing an aggressive offense that’s very capable and very dynamic and to stay out there and keep battling and keep fighting, that’s what winners do,” she said.

LSU starting pitcher Shelbi Sunseri started the game strong, limiting the Gophers to one run through three innings but struggled to find an out in the fourth, and was pulled midway through the inning. The loss moves her season record to 13-10. Maribeth Gorsuch came in relief of Sunseri and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings.

With the win, the Gophers are in the driver’s seat for their first ever College World Series berth. LSU, who has advanced to the College World Series three of the past four seasons, will have to win the next two games to move on to Oklahoma City.

“Our team’s never been known for doing things the easy way,” LSU head coach Beth Torina said. “This is a spot we’ve been in before. This is a spot we are unfortunately comfortable. So, we’ll show up tomorrow and continue to fight and battle.”

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