The game against Colorado State, on paper, was supposed to be a routine win on Sunday for the Gophers softball team. The Rams came in 6-8.
But the Gophers had to battle all seven innings before beating Colorado State 8-5 in the Diamond Devil Invitational. The U is now 13-1, tying last year's team for the best start ever. The 2014 Gophers were 14-1 before suffering their second loss.
But back to Sunday's game. No. 9 hitter Sydney of the Gophers hit a two-run homer in the sixth to tie the score at 5-all.
Then shortstop Tyler Walker, after making a diving catch in the bottom of the sixth to end a bases-loaded threat, hit a bases-clearing single in the top of the seventh inning to put the Gophers ahead 8-5.
The Rams had taken an early 5-1 lead, scoring all of their five runs in the bottom of the second. Batting against lefty starter Nikki Anderson, the Rams opened the inning with a hit batter, a double and took a 1-0 lead on an illegal pitch. An RBI single made it 2-0. After Anderson walked a batter to put runners are first and second with two outs, she was lifted.
Hannah Evanvold, a sophomore in her first appearance this season, came in and the Rams kept the rally going. A wild pitch moved the runners up a base. A walk loaded the bases and another walk brought a run home, so it's 3-0.
Then a single brought in two more runs.
Another pitching change. This time Sara Groenewegen came in, making her second relief appearance this season. She got a strikeout to end the inning.
Groenewegen finished with 11 Ks in 5-1/3 innings. She gave up only two hits and three walks in improving to 7-1.
But this game proved again that the Gophers' pitching -- behind ace Groenewegen, the Big Ten pitcher of the year last season -- can be shaky.
Anderson, the starter, lasted only 1-2/3 innings, gave up four earned runs and three hits. Evanvold got none of the three batters she faced out.
But the No. 15 Gophers, with Groenewegen stringing zeros in the circle, got their bats going at the end.
Erica Meyer was 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Walker got the big clutch in the seventh with two outs. And Hannah Granger went 1-for-3 with two RBI; her one hit gives her a 14-game hitting streak.
The game lasted 2 hours, 47 minutes, making it the Gophers' longest this season. Although it was a pleasant 67 degrees in Tempe.
Next the Gophers play five games in the Citrus Classic in Orlando. They face Mississippi St. and James Madison on Friday, Missouri and Omaha on Saturday and Fordham next Sunday.
* The Gophers are tied with Michigan for the best record in the Big Ten at 13-1. Ohio State is 9-3; the only other conference team with only three losses is Rutgers, but Scarlet Knights have played only five games and are 2-3. Other teams all have at least five losses.
* Top three hitters in conference all Gophers: Hannah Granger, .525, Kaitlyn Richardson, .523 and Erica Meyer, .514. Meyer leads the conference in slugging percentage, 1.057. She has four homers.
* Sara Groenewegen has the best ERA, .071, and is second in wins with her 7-1 record.