Minnesota Dreams Big, Advances To Supers
MINNEAPOLIS-- Dream big, why not us.
Those words hang on a poster in the Minnesota softball facility for all the coaches and players to see.
On Monday, the Gophers inched one step closer to their big dream of the College World Series, beating the Georgia Bulldogs in the Minneapolis regional final in decisive fashion, 8-1.
“The softball world was paying attention to Minnesota today and we handled it really well and we came out on top,” Gophers head coach Jamie Trachsel said.
It was a rematch of Saturday’s regional semifinal which the Gophers won 2-1, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell without looking at the color of the uniforms.
After failing to score a run until the seventh inning and needing a Hope Brandner walk-off homerun to win Saturday’s game, Minnesota jumped on the Bulldogs quickly in Monday’s final, scoring three runs in the first inning courtesy of Natalie DenHartog. DenHartog connected on a 2-2 pitch and drove it to the opposite field and over the wall for her 17th homerun of the season.
“I was due and frankly our whole offense was due,” DenHartog said. “Today to break it open and show what this offense can do it felt really great. To give Amber [Fiser] those extras runs so she could go up there and pitch freely. She’s been lights out all weekend and just giving her that confidence up there felt really good as an offense to do that for her.”
It was almost all Gophers from that point on. They jumped on starting pitcher Kylie Bass again in the fourth inning bringing home four runs thanks to a pair of singles from Allie Arneson and Anne Miller and a savvy baserunning play by Arneson that allowed her to get home before Ali Lindner, who was caught in a pickle, was tagged out.
The Bulldogs who beat Drake 7-4 earlier in the day to advance to the final, could muster only one run, against Gophers junior pitcher Amber Fiser. Fiser pitched the complete game on Monday and pitched all 22 innings of regional play for the Gophers this weekend. She finished the series allowing two runs on 10 hits while striking out 27.
“You’re at a loss for words,” Trachsel said of Fiser’s performance this weekend. “Just gutsy, she’s a fighter and she’s just good and I still don’t really know if she knows how good she is.”
The final, which was originally scheduled for Sunday, was moved to Monday due to rain. Georgia spent much of Sunday in uniform, waiting and ready at the hotel to get to the stadium and play. While the Gophers used their time off to get some extra motivation, watching Rocky IV.
“We watched Rocky IV because we kind of knew we’d be in a fight today.” Trachsel said.
The Gophers will welcome the LSU Tigers to Jane Sage Cowles Stadium next weekend for a Super Regional best two-out-of-three battle. It’s the first time the Gophers have made it the Super Regional round since 2014 and it will be the first time that they will host the round in program history. The winner will advance to the College World Series in Oklahoma City beginning May 30.
“We are showing what we can do and frankly we haven’t even shown everything we are capable of and we know that,” DenHartog said. “We are ready for the next step and we are ready to keep working hard.”