For the second day in a row, McNeese State was a little better than the Gophers in the Seattle softball regional.
The Cowgirls beat Minnesota 1-0 on Saturday night to eliminate the Gophers from the regional and end their season. The night before, McNeese State won 5-4 in 13 innings.
The rematch was much quicker, and the three pitchers for the Gophers — Jacie Hambrick (two innings), Sydney Schwartz (three) and Autumn Pease (one) — held the Cowgirls to just two hits. But they scratched for a run in the second, and that was enough.
Corine Poncho's RBI single drove in the game's lone run.
Ashley Vallejo of the Cowgirls — 18-8 with a 2.17 earned-run average coming into this game — scatted six hits and stranded six Gophers runners. She struck out three and walked one.
Perhaps Minnesota's best chance came in the fifth inning when the Gophers had runners at first and second after two singles with only one out. But Jess Oakland fouled out, and Natalie DenHartog flew out. Both outs were made by the left fielder.
The Gophers, who were third in the Big Ten and seeded second in this field, finish 38-19.
McNeese State (46-15), the third seed, advances to play host Washington on Sunday, needing to beat the Huskies twice to win the regional.
In the Gophers' first game Saturday, they beat Northern Colorado 4-0 on Pease's one-hitter and DenHartog's two RBI doubles to stay alive.
McNeese State also played an early game, losing 3-1 to Washington, which meant they would play the Northern Colorado-Minnesota winner.
Against Northern Colorado (26-22), Pease was in command throughout. She struck out 10 and walked none and gave up only a bunt single in the final inning. Pease threw almost three of every four of her pitches (59 of 80) for strikes.
Two of the Gophers power hitters — DenHartog and Oakland — staked Pease to an early 2-0 lead.
DenHartog's one-hop double off the left-field wall drove in Kayla Chavez, who had got on base on a single, for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Oakland hit an inside-the-park homer at Husky Stadium in the third. Her opposite-field blast to right center hit the base of the wall and, with two outfielders converging on the ball, it bounced toward the right-field foul line. By the time the Huskies retrieved the ball, it was way too late. Oakland scored standing up. It was her 14th homer of the season.
Minnesota loaded the bases with one out in the fifth on singles by Chavez and Oakland and a walk to Taylor Krapf, but Maddy Ehlke struck out and Amani Bradley grounded out.
The Gophers got their final two runs in the seventh on DenHartog's double and Ehlke's sacrifice fly.