Tyler Walker’s three-run triple broke a tie game in the seventh inning as No. 15 Minnesota came from four runs behind to defeat Colorado State, 8-5, and post a perfect record in the Diamond Devil Invitational (5-0) Sunday at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. The Gophers (13-1) had defeated No. 19 Arizona State, 4-1, Saturday with the help of a Walker home run.
After the Gophers took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Rams (6-9) scored five runs in the bottom of the second. Taylor Hutton doubled to center with no outs to put runners on second and third, and she would be driven in on an infield hit from Molly Randle to give CSU the lead. Hannah Evavold walked Shae Rodriguez to load the bases with two outs, and a walk to Danielle Wikre made it 3-1. Freshman Savannah Clark hit a two-run single to give the Rams a 5-1 lead, and defending Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Sara Groenewegen was inserted to end the inning for Minnesota.
Minnesota rebounded in the top of the third. Goenewegen loaded the bases with a walk, and on the next play the Gophers scored two on a throwing error to first to come within 5-3.
Erica Meyer (3-for-4 on the day) led off the top of the sixth with a single, and the Gophers would tie it at 5-5 on Sydney Fabian’s ensuing home run to center with no outs.
Rodriguez was walked with two outs to load the bags for CSU in the bottom of the sixth, only for Wikre to smash an inning-ending line drive into the mitt of the shortstop Walker. Walker then found herself with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh, and delivered a three-run triple to put Minnesota ahead 8-5.
“We’ve seen her do it a lot,” fifth-year Gophers coach Jessica Allister said of Walker. “It’s fun to watch her, and it’s amazing, people always come up and talk to me how she’s doing a tremendous job, but we see it all the time, it never surprises us.”
Groenewegen improved to 7-1 on the year and had 11 strikeouts Sunday, while Holly Reinke (2-7) picked up the loss for CSU. The Gophers’ roster also includes senior Kaitlyn Richardson of Phoenix’s Sandra Day O’Connor High School and freshman Danielle Parlich of Queen Creek, whose sister Sam played second base for the Sun Devils.Last season, Minnesota went 44-12 and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time, and its lone loss this year was 4-0 to Central Florida.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Allister said. “We have some tremendous players in the program, and I’m fortunate to watch them work hard every day. I was impressed with their play this weekend, I thought we did a really nice job.”
The Gophers return to action Feb. 27 against Mississippi State at the Citrus Classic in Orlando, Fla., while the Rams will play UC Riverside and Arizona the same day in Tucson.