Madison, Wis. – The Gophers softball team put itself one victory away from a third straight Big Ten tournament championship with a 9-4 comeback win over Indiana in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
But the deciding game was put on hold.
Scheduled for 6 p.m. vs. fourth-seed Northwestern, a second day of bad weather in the area put another damper on play. Three hours after scheduled first pitch of the championship game, tournament officials cited ongoing lightning in the area and the threat of severe weather later in the night for reasons to postpone the game.
It will be now be played at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning - weather permitting, of course.
The Wildcats had already played twice on Saturday, beating 12th-seeded Iowa 2-1 in eight innings and no-hitting Michigan State 11-0 in five innings. The Iowa game was a quarterfinal that did not get played Friday because of weather delays.
The second-seeded Gophers (38-15), with 21 victories in their past 23 games, are already on solid footing for a sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance, but a title game victory would make it automatic — and give them an outside chance of hosting a regional, something that eluded them last year.
Despite a 54-3 record, the Gophers were sent to Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2017 and did not advance.
Coming out of a 1-hour, 45-minute rain delay and with pitcher Amber Fiser struggling with her footing, the Gophers gave up four runs to the third-seeded Hoosiers (26-30) in the top of the fifth inning and fell behind 4-3. But they scored two runs in the bottom of the inning and added four more in the sixth.
Maddie Houlihan went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI for the Gophers.
Sydney Smith won her fifth game of the season after relieving Fiser in the fifth. She pitched 2 ⅔ shutout innings.
Catcher Kendyl Lindaman took a foul tip off her right hand in the fifth inning but remained in the game.
The Gophers reached the championship game for the fifth time in the past six years. They lost the title game in 2013 but were champions in 2014, 2016 and 2017. They won a fourth title in 1999.
No Big Ten team has won three straight tournament titles since Michigan won four in a row from 1995-98.
For the second straight year, Michigan’s chances were doused by Michigan State in the quarterfinals. Freshman Meghan Beaubien (32-4), one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball National Player of the Year, took the loss, allowing a season-high seven runs on five hits and five walks.
Michigan and the Gophers still have not met since the 2016 Big Ten title game.