Jamie Trachsel admits she didn’t have the best view. Once the Gophers coach saw Hope Brandner connect on a changeup, sending the ball toward the fence in left-center field, Trachsel stopped looking and started celebrating.
“I saw it off the bat, and I was jumping around,’’ she said. “So to be honest, I didn’t even see it go over the wall. She crushed that.’’
Brandner’s walkoff home run in the eighth inning ended a Gophers rally in dramatic style, giving them a 2-1 victory over Georgia on Saturday in an NCAA softball regional. The Gophers (43-12) fell behind 1-0 in the sixth inning on a home run by Georgia’s Jordan Doggett, leaving little time for a comeback at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
They used Brandner’s 19th homer of the season, a well-timed single by MaKenna Partain in the seventh and a stout finish by pitcher Amber Fiser to pull out the win, advancing to Sunday’s championship round.
Georgia (42-18) played Drake, which beat North Dakota State 8-0 in five innings Saturday, in the third game of Day 2. But that game was halted by lightning and then suspended at about 10:30 p.m. with Georgia at bat in the top of the fifth inning and leading 4-2.
The game will be resumed Sunday at a time to be determined. Whichever team wins will play the seventh-seeded Gophers at 3 p.m. Sunday.
A Gophers victory would put them into an NCAA super regional at home. If the Gophers suffer their first regional loss Sunday, the teams would play again at 5:30 p.m. to determine the regional champion.
Saturday’s rally marked the first time this season the Gophers won after trailing in the sixth inning or later.
Fiser (28-7) gave up only two hits and struck out eight, while Brandner had two of the Gophers’ four hits.
“Our message [after falling behind] was to just stay the course, stay steadfast,’’ Trachsel said. “In previous games this year, we’ve had some opportunities, and we’ve felt the disappointment of not pushing over those runs. Today, we did it. Today was a turning point for our team, finding a way to win.’’
After a 3-0 victory over North Dakota State on Friday in their tournament opener, the Gophers played under leaden skies and temperatures in the mid-40s on Saturday. A biting wind blew at a steady 15 miles per hour, keeping a crowd announced at 1,082 huddled under long down coats and fleece blankets.
Fiser kept a heavy-hitting Georgia lineup in check with a no-hitter through five innings. The first hit she surrendered was Doggett’s solo home run in the sixth.
It was only her second homer this season, and she thrust her arms into the air when the ball carried over the center-field fence.
Behind 1-0, the Gophers maintained their poise, with Fiser coming back strong and the defense holding steady. Partain pulled them even in the bottom of the seventh. After Ali Lindner walked and pinch-hitter Taylor Chell was hit by a pitch, Partain’s single scored Lindner.
Brandner said she thought Fiser threw one of her best games this season, and she wanted to do her part.
“As an offense, you feel like, ‘[Fiser] is working her butt off for us, and we’re not doing our job,’ ” Brandner said. “We didn’t want to let her down.’’
Brandner, now one homer shy of tying the Gophers’ single-season record, came to the plate looking for a changeup. She felt if she got one in her wheelhouse, she could drive it.
So did Trachsel, even if she didn’t get a good look.
“Having Hope at the plate, you know she can change the game with one swing,’’ Trachsel said.
“We faced adversity, and we handled it really well. I’m proud of them.’’