Minnesota Softball: Historic season ends in Oklahoma City
The University of Minnesota softball team didn’t let a heartbreaking loss to Washington last year dictate how its following season would go. No. 7 Minnesota capped its 2019 campaign with a 20-2 conference record and a trip to the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) in Oklahoma City.
The Gophers fell to No. 2 UCLA in the WCWS opening game, sending them to the elimination bracket. Minnesota lost to Washington on Saturday, ending a historic season with a 46-14 record. Despite going 0-2 in Oklahoma City, the Gophers proved their worth in the national spotlight.
After losing to Michigan in the conference championship on May 11, Minnesota pushed forward, defeating North Dakota State, Georgia and LSU at home to earn a spot in OKC.
Minnesota’s first trip to the College World Series under second year head coach Jamie Traschel establishes it as one of the country’s premier programs, not just in the Big Ten. Atop the Big Ten sits Michigan and Northwestern, but both failed to advance to Oklahoma City—so, Minnesota’s lone Big Ten representation is important for the conference. Minnesota’s surge into the national spotlight is good for the conference because the SEC, Pac-12 and Big-12 usually stock the WCWS field.
A successful Minnesota softball program does a lot for the state, Midwest and Big Ten. Traditionally, Michigan has been the Big Ten’s lone representative in the WCWS. Another Big Ten program competing yearly for a spot in the WCWS does so much for the conference. Increased competition improves softball in the Big Ten, eventually increasing how many Big Ten teams pose as threats in the WCWS.
Successful college softball programs are common in the south and west coast, so a northern team emerging to national prominence brings promise to northern states, particularly in the Midwest. Young softball players can watch top-talent locally, and Gopher softball shows girls in the Midwest that they can stay in the Midwest and chase their dreams of participating in the WCWS. Minnesota’s roster is comprised of eight Minnesotans. Its roster also features players from Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Oregon, California, Nevada and Texas. Its 2019 campaign not only means Minnesota will be able to score top local talent, but also compete for top players across the country.
Gophers drop first game
Amber Fiser prevailed for Minnesota throughout the season, earning her Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and All-American status; however, Fiser was put to test against a dangerous UCLA team on Thursday. UCLA defeated Minnesota 7-2 in the opening round.
UCLA’s offense shined against Minnesota on Thursday. The Bruins collected eight hits, putting up seven runs against a dominant Amber Fiser. Junior pitcher Rachel Garcia’s performance limited the Gophers to only four hits. Garcia, who won National Player of the Year, struck out seven batters throughout the evening. UCLA’s early firepower and consistent offensive attack put Minnesota on its heels throughout the game.
Washington sends Gophers home
No. 3 Washington defeated Minnesota Saturday 5-3, ending Minnesota’s 2019 season. Standout Amber Fiser started in the circle, but was replaced by senior Sydney Smith in the third inning. Carlie Brandt led the Gophers with three RBIs off two hits. Emma Burns and Natalie DenHartog also collected one hit each.
The University of Minnesota’s softball roster includes eight Minnesotans. Minnesota’s ability to recruit home-grown talent has led to its recent success. Local softball diamonds like those found on the National Sports Center’s campus provide opportunities for young players to improve and chase their dreams.