Gophers come back, top Auburn to win softball regional

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 19, 2014 - 7:10 AM

Sam Macken’s three-run homer erased a deficit and sent the U past the Tigers and into a Super Regional.

The Gophers required all six-plus hours of softball on Sunday to claim the program’s first NCAA Super Regional appearance.

Freshman Sam Macken popped a three-run homer off the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth inning of a second championship game — turning a one-run deficit into a two-run lead. Relief pitcher Nikki Anderson finished the six-hour drama with a swift top of the seventh to close out an 8-6 victory over Auburn at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” Gophers fourth-year coach Jessica Allister said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to work with every day. It’s a privilege to watch them compete, and I’m excited to see it get to continue. … We were going to need to embrace the hard and continue to fight through, and the team embodied that and did a great job.”

The victory moved the Gophers into the Super Regional at Oregon, the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. The Gophers (44-10) and the Ducks (52-7-1) will play a best-of-three series for a trip to the Women’s College World Series, with the opener at 9 p.m. Saturday and the second game at 4 p.m. Sunday. A third game, if necessary, would follow at 7 p.m. Sunday.

The Gophers and Auburn (42-19-1) were seeking their first regional championship, and they needed a second title game to settle it. The Tigers won Sunday’s first title game of the double-elimination tournament 4-3 in eight innings on a walk-off homer by pinch hitter Jenna Abbott.

The Gophers, seeded No. 16 in the NCAA field, played from behind for much of the championship marathon. In the finale, they led 1-0 after one inning and 3-2 after two before Mc- Kenzie Kilpatrick gave Auburn a 6-3 lead with a third-inning grand slam. In the fourth, the Gophers trimmed the lead to 6-5.

Overcoming deficits and the walk-off loss were never a concern, Gophers shortstop Tyler Walker said. She had two hits and scored two runs in Game 2 and finished the day 3-for-7 with three runs and a walk.

Kaitlyn Richardson, Erica Meyer and Madie Eckstrom also had a pair of hits in Game 2.

“I think for any other team it’d be difficult, but for us we knew we had Nikki in our back pocket … It wasn’t difficult, it was fun, and I think that’s where we got most of our drive,” Walker said. “It’s a privilege [to take Gophers softball to the super regionals]. It’s been an opportunity, and like I said last time, we’re not done.”

Anderson relieved senior Sara Moulton and freshman Sara Groenewegen and got the win in Game 2.

Lexi Davis started both games for Auburn and pitched 13 innings. She picked up a win and loss.

Groenewegen finished Game 1 and didn’t last long into Game 2, despite striking out seven in a total of 4 ⅓ innings. Moulton started the first game and left trailing 3-0 after five innings. She entered the finale with two outs in the second and struggled to find a rhythm. She hit a batter and walked two before giving up Kilpatrick’s grand slam.

Moulton, who pitched 6 ⅔ innings Sunday, received credit from Macken.

“She is really positive and comes over to give you pep talks before you hit. She’s really confident in all of us, and everyone has each other’s backs,” Macken said. “[Davis] threw my pitch and I took advantage of it.”

Moulton’s last pep talk to Macken helped produce a hit that will give the senior another chance to pitch on the biggest stage Gophers softball has ever seen.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Washington 0
Pittsburgh 7 FINAL
Detroit 3
Miami 3 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Boston - WP: K. Couch 11 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Reavis 8
NY Yankees - LP: M. Tanaka 1 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: T. Milone 3
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Baltimore 3
Philadelphia 6 FINAL
Toronto 10
Chicago Cubs 15 FINAL
Texas 10
Cincinnati - WP: M. Lorenzen 10 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 4
Colorado 3 FINAL
San Francisco 4
Chicago WSox 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 1
Seattle 6 FINAL
Cleveland 8
Oakland - WP: J. Fuller 13 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: B. Loconsole 10
Texas 7 FINAL
Arizona 8
Houston 8 FINAL
Atlanta 5
Kansas City 4 FINAL
San Diego 1
Atlanta 95 FINAL
Detroit 105
Indiana 106 FINAL
Brooklyn 111
San Antonio 95 FINAL
Miami 81
Golden State 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 106
New Jersey 2 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 3
Carolina 2 FINAL
Washington 4
Florida 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Tampa Bay 1 FINAL
Toronto 3
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Vancouver 5 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
UT Martin 66 FINAL
Evansville 79
Miami-Florida 60 FINAL
Temple 57
Northern Ariz 68
Stanford 67 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who are you rooting for in the NCAA Final Four?

Weekly Question