BLOOMINGTON, IND.- The University of Minnesota Gophers blanked No. 2 seed Northwestern in the semifinals, 4-0, to advance to their fourth straight Big Ten Tournament championship game but fell just short in a comeback effort against No. 1 seed Michigan.
The Gophers had won the past three conference championships. They fell to Michigan after making a sixth inning comeback effort. They trailed 3-0 but put two runs across in the sixth and had chances in the bottom of the seventh before ultimately falling 3-2 to the regular season and tournament champions.
Minnesota awaits selection Sunday with a 41-12 overall record. The Gophers played the toughest nonconference schedule in the entire country and went into this weekend No. 8 in the NCAA RPI. The selection show will take place at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN 2.
Amber Fiser, Hope Brandner and Katelyn Kemmetmueller were all named to the 2019 All-Big Ten Tournament Team.
Game One: Minnesota 4, Northwestern 0
Brandner had a big day and got the Gophers on the board early in the semifinals. She basted the first pitch she saw for her 17th home run of the season in the top of the first to make it 2-0 right away.
With a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Fiser stuck out the side. Kemmetmueller made it a 3-0 lead in the top of the second. Her seventh home run of the season and second of the tournament was a solo shot to left field.
The Gophers tacked on an insurance run in the top of the sixth to make it 4-0. Natalie DenHartog got on base with a single up the middle and made her way to third on the following at-bats. DenHartog scored as Kemmetmueller reached on a fielding error.
Fiser got the start in the circle and pitched a complete game shutout over the Wildcats. In seven innings, the junior ace tied her career-high with 13 strikeouts for the fifth time this season. She allowed just four hits and one walk in the dominant victory.
Game Two: Michigan 3, Minnesota 2
Sydney Smith got the start in the circle for game two and pitched three scoreless innings before giving up a run in the top of the fourth.
Fiser came into the game in the top of the fifth. With a runner on third and one out on the board, Michigan hit a double to plate a run and go up 2-0. The third run of the frame for the Wolverines was scored on an RBI-groundout.
After a brief rain delay in the sixth inning, Fiser shut down Michigan and the Gophers offense went to work. Brandner stepped up to the plate and hit her second home run of the day with a solo shot to right center to get the Gophers on the board. DenHartog followed with a single and Emma Burns crushed a double that almost left the park to put runners at second and third.
Arneson brought in Denhartog on a sacrifice fly to left to pull Minnesota within one but Michigan was able to escape the sixth with the lead.
Fiser kept the Gophers within one heading into the bottom of the seventh. Minnesota was the designated home team due to Big Ten rules. Michigan had been the home team already in two tournament games while the Gophers had only been once before the championship game.
Carlie Brandt led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk but Michigan quickly sat down the next two batters. Brandner stepped to the plate with a 3-3 day going but just missed on a deep fly to left for the final out.
Fiser went three innings in the circle for the Gophers and struck out three batters while allowing one run. Fiser has now amassed 301 strikeouts so far this season. Smith registered two strikeouts and gave up just three hits and two runs in four innings. She took the loss and is 13-5 on the season.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Gopher Baseball team scored early and late to even its Big Ten Conference series with Maryland after a 9-3 victory on Saturday night at Siebert Field.
Minnesota (23-24, 12-8 Big Ten) batted around in the bottom of the first, plating four runs on RBI singles from Eduardo Estrada, Jr., Cole McDevitt, Jack Wassel, and Andrew Wilhite. Eli Wilson kept the scoring going in the bottom of the second with his third home run of the year, a solo shot.
Patrick Fredrickson took the mound for the Gophers, making the start after a late precautionary scratch for Sam Thoresen. The reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Year continued his comeback tour, throwing 4.2 innings while striking out 7 on the day. With his sixth strikeout of the day, the Maroon & Gold set a single season program record for strikeouts with 246 on the year.
Maryland (24-26, 9-11 Big Ten) got on the board in the top of the second with a solo home run by Maxwell Costes. Zach Thompson (2-6) tossed 7.0 innings allowing five runs, three earned, on six hits and struck out four Gophers.
Bubba Horton (1-0) earned the victory after striking out two in 2.2 innings out of the Minnesota bullpen, surrendering a pair of runs in the top of the eighth after a double by Caleb Walls and RBI singles from Randy Bednar and Costes. Brett Schulze entered with two on and one out, getting through the inning with a strikeout and a fly to right.
Minnesota added insurance in the bottom of the eighth, plating four runs with Easton Bertrand and Drew Hmielewski highlighting the inning with an RBI double each.
Fredrickson made his first start since March 31 … Horton’s victory was the first of his career after finishing 0-0 in 13.1 innings as a rookie … nine different batters contributed at least a hit for Minnesota.