TUCSON, ARIZ. – The long ball extended the Gophers’ softball season well into the night Sunday against Arizona before Kellie Fox’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Wildcats a 7-6 victory in the championship game of their NCAA Regional in Tucson, Ariz.
The Gophers, who needed to beat the Wildcats twice to advance, won the first game 5-2 on Paige Palkovich’s walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the seventh. The Gophers’ other run came on a Sam Macken leadoff home run in the first, and their offense was quiet until Kaitlyn Richardson, Hannah Granger and Taylor LeMay singled in the seventh off Wildcats freshman Trish Parks, who limited Minnesota to five hits Saturday. Palkovich then delivered her grand slam.
In the second game, another dramatic blast — a three-run shot by Taylor LeMay with two outs in the top of the seventh — put the Gophers in position to eliminate the Wildcats, leading 6-4.
But Arizona quickly tied it on Chelsea Goodacre’s two-run homer in the bottom of the inning. The Wildcats (41-18) later put the tying run in scoring position, but the Gophers (49-11) turned a double play, then recorded the final out when Palkovich made a diving catch in left.
The Gophers were attempting to become only the second team, along with Louisiana-Lafayette in 2004, to beat the Wildcats in a regional in Tucson.
Arizona advanced to a Super Regional series against Louisiana State.