SEATTLE – The championship game of the NCAA Seattle Regional softball tournament will be remembered for two stunning developments: The sun came out in rain-soaked Seattle, and standout Gophers pitcher Sara Groenewegen was knocked out of the game after only one inning.
Washington roughed up Groenewegen for three runs in the first and cruised to a 15-7 victory at Husky Softball Stadium. Groenewegen gave up two more runs after re-entering the game in the sixth inning, when the game was called an inning early due to the eight-run rule.
A crowd of 1,152 enjoyed the sunshine and the Huskies’ third victory over Minnesota in as many tries this season (two at the regional). All three came at the expense of Groenewegen (31-7).
“Winning three in a row [against one team] is not easy,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said, “especially against a great team like Minnesota, who we believe is one of the best teams in the country.”
Tarr said Groenewegen is “far and away one of the best pitchers in the country,” but the junior righthander’s velocity was lacking Sunday. Groenewegen pitched all but three innings in the Gophers’ four games at the three-day regional. She threw 24 innings at last weekend’s Big Ten tournament.
“I definitely think the first couple times we faced her was a lot harder,” Washington shortstop Ali Aguilar said.
Gophers coach Jessica Allister said she yanked Groenewegen early because the Huskies “had a pretty good game plan against her. They were pretty comfortable in the box.”
The Gophers head home after a 2-2 showing at the regional left them with a 43-14 record. Both of their regional victories were against North Dakota State.
Washington (39-13) outhit the Gophers 14-6 on Sunday, pounded two home runs and five doubles off three pitchers and scored in every inning. They are one of five Pacific-12 teams moving on to the final 16.
“They’re awesome,” Allister said. “They have ‘plus’ power, ‘plus’ speed.”
Aguilar went 4-for-5 with a homer, double and four RBI. Left fielder Casey Stangel drove in four runs, and freshman catcher Morganne Flores launched a 235-foot solo homer to dead center in the third inning. The ball crashed off a trombone in the bleacher section occupied by the Huskies marching band.
Washington freshman Taran Alvelo (18-5) pitched four-plus innings to earn the win and a standing ovation when she left the game. She had been sidelined by an ankle injury since April 30.
The Gophers trailed 12-2 before they temporarily delayed the eight-run rule by scoring five runs in the fifth inning. Sam Macken sparked the rally with a three-run double.
“We didn’t want our season to be over,” said Macken, who had four RBI.
Seniors Nikki Anderson, Sydney Fabian, Taylor LeMay, Brandi McGregor, Paige Palkovich and Kayla Wenner played their final game as Gophers. They leave with the highest winning percentage of any Gophers class at .873.