Sydney Smith, usually the Gophers’ backup starter, was called upon Saturday night to keep her team’s season alive.
And the junior righthander did, giving up 10 hits but no runs as Minnesota beat Texas 3-0 in the team’s second elimination game of the day in the Seattle regional at Husky Softball Stadium.
With that win — and an earlier 11-3 comeback victory over Boise State — the Gophers advanced to the championship game against regional host Washington at 6 p.m. Sunday. The Huskies, the top seed in this region and the No. 5 overall seed in the NCAA’s 64-team field — have won both their games so far this weekend. So even if Minnesota beats Washington once, it would have to beat the Huskies again in a second game, which would follow, to advance to the super regionals.
Kendyl Lindaman gave the Gophers (41-16) a 1-0 lead against the Longhorns in the third inning with a two-out homer — her 20th of the season, tying the program single-season record she set last year as a freshman. It also was her 55th RBI, the team high.
“[Lindaman] is definitely a program difference maker,” Gophers coach Jamie Trachsel said in a midgame interview by an ESPN announcer.
Maddie Houlihan followed with a single and scored a controversial second run when Sydney Dwyer lifted a fly ball that was dropped.
The ball rolled far enough away from the Texas left fielder that Dwyer tried for second base and was tagged out.
But the home plate umpire ruled that Houlihan had touched home before the third out was made — much to Texas coach Connie Clark’s obvious displeasure — making it 2-0 Minnesota.
Danielle Parlich’s RBI double in the sixth made the score 3-0 Gophers.
Smith, meantime, kept getting in jams and stranding runners — nine altogether. Texas (33-26) left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth when Smith struck out Malory Schattle swinging after intentionally walking the hot-hitting hitter before her with first base open. Smith finished with seven strikeouts and just that one walk.
Smith also played a key role in the defensive play of the game in the seventh inning. Texas had a runner on first base when Paige von Sprecken smacked a line drive up the middle that appeared to be a hit. Instead, the ball deflected off Smith’s glove right to shortstop Allie Arneson who caught the ball for one out, stepped on second base by instinct, and threw to first base for a double play crushing the Longhorns’ hopes
Smith, a standout at Maple Grove who transferred from LSU, threw 135 pitches, 95 for strikes.
“We will go with her as long as we can,” Trachsel said in that midgame interview.
Turns out Trachsel didn’t need to go to a reliever at all.
In the win against Boise State, the Gophers were hitless the first five innings and fell behind 2-0 before erupting for seven runs in the top of the sixth and four more in the seventh.
Dwyer started the rally in the sixth by doubling to center on the first pitch of the inning, breaking up Gianna Mancha’s no-hitter. Then Dani Wagner sent a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall.
That prompted the Broncos (40-16) to change pitchers, bringing in Kelsey Broadus. She got two routine outs before the Gophers loaded the bases on two hit batters and a walk in between them. That brought up Lindaman, the two-time Big Ten Player of the Year.
She doubled to clear the bases, putting the Gophers ahead 5-2. Houlihan followed with a triple to score Lindaman. And Houlihan scored, too, when Dwyer, up for the second time in the inning, reached on an error.
Here’s the recap of the Gophers’ sixth: seven runs, four hits for extra bases (homer, triple, two doubles), two hit batters, one walk, one error.
The Gophers scored four more runs in the seventh on MaKenna Partain’s RBI single, Lindaman’s sacrifice fly and Houlihan’s two-run single.
Sophomore righthander Amber Fiser of Minnesota ended up allowing two earned runs and four hits in a complete game.
The Broncos took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Alison Seng reached first base on a throwing error and, three batters later, scored on a fielding error.
In the fifth, Kora Wade of Boise State singled for the first hit by either team. She scored on Madison Anthony’s single, making it 2-0 Broncos.
That looked like a big lead in a pitching duel. It wasn’t.