Minnesota batter Natalie DenHartog (31) takes a practice swing against Texas Southern during an NCAA softball game on Friday, March 8, 2019 in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Stephen Spillman)

The University of Minnesota softball team defeated Georgia 8-1 in a regional final on Monday afternoon at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Minnesota, 44-12, jumped out to 3-0 lead in the first inning after a Natalie DenHartog home run and never looked back as pitcher Amber Fiser went the distance and struck out seven.

The Gophers finished the regional with a 3-0 record and posted wins against North Dakota State and Georgia twice. With the win, Minnesota advances to a super regional for the first time since 2014 and for only the second time in school history.

“The one thing we have been all year was balanced,” head Coach Jamie Trachsel said. “I think this weekend showed the balance of this team and that we can win in different ways. For our offense to come out and put up runs on the board and have two blow up innings was huge.”

This time however, Minnesota will host a super regional for the first time in school history as the No. 7-seed Gophers will welcome No. 10-seed LSU for a best-of-three series starting on Friday. Minnesota has played LSU twice in the last 10 years and won both games on the road. The Gophers beat the Tigers 3-0 in 2017 and 1-0 in 2014.

This weekend’s Minneapolis Regional of the NCAA Softball Tournament was one of two across the country pushed to a Monday finish because of rain.

However, the Sunday washout didn’t dampen the spirits of freshman sensation DenHartog. The Hopkins, Minn., native got Minnesota on the board early as she launched a three-run home run off the light pole in right center field in the top of the first inning. The Gophers, despite hosting the regional, were the visiting team in the matinee. Had Minnesota lost the game, it would have been the home team in the second game.

“I was trying to stay back, trying to see it well and pound whatever she gave me,” Natalie DenHartog said.

The Maroon and Gold stretched its lead to 7-0 in the top of the third when it plated four more runs. The inning was highlighted when pinch hitter Anne Miller lined a two-run single to right.

Georgia cut the score to 7-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Minnesota answered in the top of the sixth to make it 8-1 on a Hope Brandner RBI-single to center to score MaKenna Partain. On the score, Partain tied the Gophers single season runs record. She has 65 this year to tie Rachel Nelson’s 1996 mark.

Fiser, who was the Big Ten pitcher of the year, improved to 29-7 this season. Her 29 wins is fifth most in a single season in program history. The junior pitched 22.0 innings in the regional and allowed just 10 hits and two earned runs, while striking out 27 and walking just three batters.

“I have worked my whole life to get to where I am today. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the team I have behind me,” Amber Fiser said. “The offense today was on fire.”


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