MADISON, WIS. – For the third year in a row, the Gophers are Big Ten softball tournament champions. And for the third time in six years, they will be headed to Seattle to begin the NCAA tournament.
The Gophers won the rain-delayed championship game over Northwestern 9-6 on Sunday, making them the second team in Big Ten history to win three consecutive conference titles. Their reward for the championship was an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, where they will face Texas at 8 p.m. Friday.
“It was a complete team effort, not just today but the entire weekend,” first-year coach Jamie Trachsel said after the Gophers emerged as Big Ten champions following three days, numerous delays — including one involving a helicopter — and 24 runs at the Goodman Softball Complex. “We found different ways to win each game and different people stepping up at different times to make it a complete team effort.”
Two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Kendyl Lindaman went 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI Sunday, when the Gophers (39-15) jumped out to a 4-0 lead after one inning and 9-3 after four against the Wildcats (36-17). Maddie Houlihan went 2-for-2 with a triple, two walks, a run and an RBI, and she was named tournament Most Outstanding Player.
“It means so much. I think it just shows how tough we are and how competitive we can be,” Houlihan said. “When we play our best ball we can beat anyone. So many people stepped up to the plate and scored different runs in different ways, and that was exciting to see a bunch of people contributing.”
Dani Wagner capped the four-run first inning with a two-run homer. Starter Amber Fiser gave up three second-inning runs and was pulled in the third for Sydney Smith, who pitched 3⅔ innings of relief to earn the victory.
The Gophers earned their fourth Big Ten title in five years. Michigan, from 1996 to ’98, is the only other program with three consecutive championships.
Friday night, they will face Texas (32-24), which earned its 14th consecutive NCAA tournament bid. No. 5 overall seed and host Washington (44-8) faces Boise State (40-14) in the other game in Seattle on Friday. The Longhorns last faced the Gophers in the 2017 Texas Classic, with the Gophers winning 5-2 and 11-6.
The Gophers also went to Seattle for the 2013 and 2016 NCAA tournaments.
The complete NCAA tournament bracket is here.