TUCSON, ARIZ. – The Gophers know what they have to do Sunday.
Beat host Arizona, the No. 12 overall seed in the NCAA softball tournament, twice.
If they do that, the Gophers (48-10) will win the Tucson Regional and move on to the SuperRegionals for the second year in a row. Otherwise their season’s over.
On Saturday, the Gophers lost to the host Wildcats 5-1 in the winners’ bracket final, then in an elimination game edged New Mexico State 2-0 to stay alive.
Sophomore righthander Sara Gronewegen, a finalist for the national player of the year, started both games and fared quite differently in each.
She lasted only 2 ⅓ innings against Arizona, which leads the all-time series with the Gophers 21-2. But she pitched a two-hitter and got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam against New Mexico State in the second game.
“I thought we did a pretty decent job with [Groenewegen] and she is a good pitcher,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said. “She kind of lost it there for a little bit. But I am sure if they get through tonight [Minnesota did], she will be back on the mound, and we will expect nothing but the best from her.”
At her best, Groenewegen can dominate.
She beat New Mexico State twice, 10-2 in a six-inning rout Friday when she threw a three-hitter. And Saturday, she held the Aggies (47-16) to two hits.
In the bottom of the seventh, New Mexico State loaded the bases on three walks — the only three Groenewegen allowed — but she struck out the next two hitters. She finished with nine strikeouts. It was her 30th win and 10th shutout of the season.
Second baseman Danielle Parlich drove in both of the Gophers’ runs, on a double in the third and a single in the fourth. Gophers coach Jessica Allister didn’t see either hit. She was ejected in the second after a close out call at first base on a Gopher.
Arizona (40-17) entered the regional 1-5 in its last six regular-season games, playing two series against the top two Pac-12 teams, UCLA and Oregon.
The Gophers had been 6-0 against the Pac-12 this season and 19-1 in true road games.
Arizona, which is making its 29th consecutive NCAA appearance and has won eight national titles, was a different challenge.
The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on Katiyana Mauga’s leadoff solo homer — her 26th of the season. After the Gophers scored in the third on Parlich’s groundout, Arizona took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on Groenewegen’s bases-loaded walk.