OKLAHOMA CITY – Maddie Houlihan played her 235th softball game for the Gophers on Saturday. It was her last one, a 5-3 loss to Washington, and it was delayed for more than three hours by the common sight of an Oklahoma late-spring storm, and almost delayed again by an astounding rally against Gabbie Plain, an All-America pitcher for the Washington Huskies.
The Gophers were down 5-1 entering the bottom of the seventh. Natalie DenHartog’s single, walks to pinch-hitter Taylor Chell and Ali Lindner and Carlie Brandt’s pop-fly double to right cut the lead to 5-3. Washington finally had to go its other ace, Taran Alvelo, to strike out MaKenna Partain and end it.
The loss sent the Gophers (46-14) home from their first NCAA Women’s College World Series at 0-2, but the sight of that rally was another sign of what Houlihan felt this team and program had become in her four years.
“I don’t think there’s ever a moment we will give up,’’ Houlihan said. “We’re going to give you hell until you find a way to beat us.
“It also showed if we clean up some stuff earlier in the game, it’s a different ballgame. What a game for Carlie in the nine hole. Shows the toughness we have one through nine.’’
In the end, the toughness was outdone by deeper lineups from one through nine for both UCLA and Washington. Asked about what she saw from the two Pac-12 powers, Gophers coach Jamie Trachsel smiled slightly and said: “I told the players after the game, ‘As of right now, we’re not the No. 2 team [UCLA] in the country, and we’re not the No. 3 team [Washington], but we are the No. 7 team in the country.’ ”
Amber Fiser, the Gophers’ first-team All-America pitcher, had given up a home run on her fourth pitch vs. UCLA on Thursday, and she allowed a home run to Washington’s Sami Reynolds on her eighth pitch. An error and wild pitch led to another run — 2-0 after one inning, and the Gophers were chasing, as they had been 48 hours earlier.
Fiser had her shortest outing in 40 starts, 3⅔ innings. Lightning appeared on radar as reliever Sydney Smith prepared to pitch the sixth, and the game was stopped at 12:51 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.
“We played mini golf in our dugout,” Houlihan said. “We told some funny stories. Kind of a fun last game. We got a couple of extra hours together.”
Washington also ended the Gophers’ 2018 season in a regional in Seattle. This was different: This was two extra steps, regional and super regional victories. Still, Trachsel was candid when asked if her team had offered its “A’’ game in these two games:
“We didn’t play our best,” she said. “We’re not going to make excuses about it. We certainly won’t have any regrets about it. There’s so many special weekends we get to share together, we’re not going to let one weekend define or change anything we’ve been able to accomplish together.’’