Bree Blanchette, a senior from Eagan, had never hit a grand slam in college. Until Friday.
Blanchette's grand slam in the sixth inning carried the Gophers to a 6-3 victory over Purdue in Evanston, Ill., in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.
Minnesota had entered the inning down 3-1. But Erica Meyer, the hitter before Blanchette, had walked to force in a run and make the score 3-2. Blanchette said she went up to bat looking for a strike to hit and just wanted to hit the ball the hard.
She sure did, over the left-field fence.
Kaitlyn Richardson also homered for the Gophers. Hers came with nobody aboard.
Three pitchers were used by the Gophers. Sara Moulton started and gave up two runs in three innings. Sara Groenewegen pitched three-plus innings and gave up one run and got the victory. And, after Purdue got two players on base in the seventh, lefthander Nikki Anderson came in and got three outs for a save.
The Gophers will now play Ohio State, which upset conference co-champion Nebraska 7-5 in eight innings. The game will be on the Big Ten Network at 2:30 p.m.
The second semifinal between Michigan, the other conference co-champion and top seed, and Wisconsin will follow. The championship game will be 7:30 p.m.
The Gophers (39-9) did not play Ohio State during the regular season.