For 34 games, the Gophers softball team had traveled all over -- six states --- to compete.
The U was 10-0 in California, 5-0 in both Arizona and Nevada, 3-0 in Illinois, 2-1 in Nebraska and only 4-4 in Florida, where they lost three games one weekend.
All that add ups to a 29-5 record. But Friday was their home opener, and the preseason conference favorite, Michigan, was the opponent. The Wolverines were 31-5, and ranked No. 4 in the country.
The Gophers would have to be at their best to win -- and they were.
Minnesota won 9-1 in six innings. Yes, the game ended an inning early by the eight-run rule.
The No. 12 Gophers (30-5, 6-1) started as well as you could. Leadoff hitter Tyler Walker, on a hot streak for the past month, hit her team-leading 10th homer in the bottom of the first to give the U a 1-0 lead. It was her 43rd career homer, tying her for second on the all-time career homer list.
(She is tied with Shannon Beeler, 1996-99. Jordanne Nygren is first with 51 from 1999-2003.)
Walker has seven of her 10 homers in the past eight games.
After Michigan (31-6, 5-2) tied the score in the top of the third -- on junior second baseman Sierra Romero's RBI single -- the Gophers got three more runs in the bottom of the inning. The first two came home on pitcher Sara Groenewegen's single.
Sam Macken hit a solo homer in the fourth to make it 5-1. And four more runs scored in the sixth, the first on a hit batter with the bases loaded, two more on Danielle Parlich's single and the fourth on an error. That was the ball game.
Groenewegen mowed down the Wolverines. The sophomore righthander only gave up four hits, and one walk while striking out 10.
She now has 200 strikeouts this season in 134 innings.
It was the first time this season Michigan lost in a shortened game by the run rule and the first time thay had as many as 10 batters strike out.
Sophomore Megan Betsa of Michigan gave up all nine runs, only four were earned. Michigan committed three errors, the Gophers none.
Betsa gave up nine hits and walked five in 5.2 innings. She struck out eight.
This is the fifth time in coach Jessica Allister's five seasons the Gophers have reached the 30-win mark. They have won 11 games shortened by the eight-run rule.
The second game of the series is at 1 p.m. Saturday. It's also on the Big Ten Network.
The Gophers are 98-85 all-time in Cowles Stadium after compiling a 9-3 home record a year ago.