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Minnesota's Historic Season Ends At First WCWS

(Photo by Linda Donnelly)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Minnesota head coach Jamie Trachsel sat at the podium and paused mid-sentence. She put her hands up to her face, wiped the tears from her eyes, took a deep breath and began to answer the question.

“Our pitching has been outstanding all year,” she said with a quiver in her voice. “Our defense, we take a lot of pride in being secret service and our job is to serve, protect and defend the President. We didn’t do it this weekend. We extended, we gave them opportunities, we let leadoffs get on and we gave up scoring position by extending the innings. Against these caliber of teams you can’t do that because they make you pay… It’s disappointing because that’s not who we’ve been all year.”

The Golden Gophers were eliminated by Washington 5-3 on Saturday afternoon.

They were the fresh blood that had never played in a Women’s College World Series. They were the team that lost its All-American catcher and offensive leader in December when she transferred to Florida.

Yet, they overcame every obstacle in their way and arrived with a roster loaded with homegrown talent and a sense of pride, regardless of the outcome.

“Minnesota softball is changing,” said senior Sydney Smith, who transferred home after two years at LSU. “We’re competitive and can compete with anyone in the country. We proved that this year. We’re ending our season as the No. 7 team in the country and not many programs can say that.”

Eight of the players on the Gophers’ roster are from Minnesota with three from Iowa, two from South Dakota, Wisconsin and California and one from Nevada, Texas and Oregon.

Of their 60 games played, only 16 were played at home in Minneapolis.

“Obviously, it’s hard when you’re only playing a couple games at home, but then coming to places on the road it almost feels comfortable to us,” said senior Maddie Houlihan. “We’re used to the pressure. We’re used to the big crowds cheering against us. You get used to it when you’re a northern state and know that your first six weeks are going to be on the road, but then that makes coming home that much more special. We had some pretty amazing weekends at home this year and I think some of us won’t forget them.”

The Golden Gophers were the first team eliminated at this year's WCWS, but their stay in Oklahoma City was still historic. MaKenna Partain recorded their first-ever hit at the WCWS, Natalie DenHartog had their first RBI, Amber Fiser got their first strikeout and Katelyn Kemetmueller recorded their first putout.

Four seniors (Smith, Arneson, Houlihan and Taylor Chell) will graduate this year, but the future of Minnesota softball is bright.

“Minnesota is somewhere where you can chase your dreams,” Smith said to close out her last press conference at the WCWS. “I one-hundred percent believe that and this speaks for itself. Why not Minnesota? Why not us? Why not come and be different, change the history? We made history this year and not a lot of people can say that. Minnesota is really somewhere that will continue to get better. They’re only on the way up from here.”

natalie denhartog photo by minnesota athletics.jpg

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