The No. 7 seed Gophers advanced to their first ever NCAA Women’s College World Series and will play No. 2 UCLA at 1:30 p.m. CT on Thursday in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The Gophers are 5-0 in the NCAA Tournament with wins over NDSU, two over Georgia and two over No. 10 seed LSU. Minnesota has never made a Women’s College World Series in the NCAA era but did take third in the 1978 AIAW World Series.
Amber Fiser has led the way in the circle all season long for the Gophers and took it up a step even further in NCAA Tournament play. She has pitched all 36 innings and is 5-0 with 38 strikeouts and a 0.78 ERA. She was featured on SportsCenter and threw out the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins games on Sunday after her three-hit shutout against LSU to send the Gophers to the WCWS.
The junior ace was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year this year. She also picked up six Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors this season, which set a new program record and tied a conference record. She is just the third player in conference history to earn six Pitcher of the Week honors in the same season and the first since 2011. She also picked up two Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Pitcher of the Week honors this season. Fiser has 31 wins on the season, which is tied for second all-time with Sara Groenewegen who did it three times. Sara Moulton has the school record with 32 victories.
The Gophers have had a number of heroic moments throughout postseason. Down 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh against Georgia in the winner’s bracket, MaKenna Partain ripped a game tying RBI single up the middle. Hope Brandner then smacked a walk-off home run in the eighth inning. Natalie DenHartog opened up the Regional Championship game with a three run home run in the first inning. Maddie Houlihan led a comeback with a home run and an RBI-double in game one of Super Regionals. Fellow senior Allie Arneson hit a go-ahead single to score two runs in game one of Super Regionals and broke a 0-0 tie in game two with a fifth inning home run.
The Gophers have proven to be well balanced. They are seventh in the country in ERA with 1.64, eighth in fielding percentage at .977 and are 15th in the country with 72 home runs this season. If the season ended right now the Gophers would have a new program record for fielding percentage. The current record is .975 from the 2008 season.
Eight different Gophers came away with end of the year Big Ten hardware. Fiser was a unanimous selection for the Pitcher of the Year and First team. DenHartog was also a First Team and All-Freshman Team unanimous selection. Partain and Brandner joined Fiser and DenHartog as First Team honorees. Houlihan picked up Second Team honors while Katelyn Kemmetmueller and Arneson earned spots on the All-Defensive Team. Emily Hansen was named a Sportsmanship Award honoree. Fiser, DenHartog, Brandner, Partain and Houlihan were all named All-Region as well and DenHartog is a Top-3 Finalist for NFCA Freshman of the Year.
Batting Average: MaKenna Partain (.392)
Runs: MaKenna Partain (66, school record)
Home Runs: Hope Brandner (19)
RBI: Natalie DenHartog (63)
Stolen Bases: MaKenna Partain (13)
ERA: Amber Fiser (1.17)
Strikeouts: Amber Fiser (339)
The No. 2 seeded UCLA Bruins defeated JMU 6-1 and 7-2 in the Los Angeles Super Regional to advance to the Women’s College World Series. The Bruins are 51-6 overall.
Kelli Godin is leading UCLA with a .446 batting average. The freshman has produced 43 runs, 54 hits and 13 RBIs. Briana Perez has a team leading 65 runs while batting .397. The sophomore infielder has 10 doubles and 41 RBIs on the season. Junior Bubba Nickles is leading UCLA in home runs with 16 and RBIs with 69. She is batting .395 on the season with 59 runs, 75 hits and 11 doubles. As a team, the Bruins are batting .342.
Redshirt junior Rachel Garcia has recorded a 1.01 ERA in 31 appearances. She is 24-1 with 253 strikeouts and 15 complete games. Meagan Faraimo, a freshman right-hander, is 16-4 on the season with a 1.42 ERA. In 26 appearances and 113 innings pitched, she has allowed just 23 earned runs and has struck out 143 batters. UCLA’s pitching staff has a combined ERA of 1.39.
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)