Top-ranked Minnesota downs LA Tech in NCAA opener, 11-3

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Minnesota scored eight runs with two outs in the second and third innings to blow open a first day game between the top-ranked Golden Gophers and Louisiana Tech as the Big Ten champions defeated the Lady Techsters 11-3 in five innings at Rhoads Stadium.

With the victory, Minnesota (55-3) moves on to play the winner of Alabama and Albany on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The Lady Techsters (37-23) fall into the elimination bracket and will play the loser of the Crimson Tide and Great Danes Saturday at 4 p.m.

Head coach Mark Montgomery knew that his team would face quite the challenge against Minnesota, a team that was snubbed by the NCAA Committee in its seeding for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

However, Tech looked out of character early as Minnesota plated three in the first against C-USA Newcomer of the Year Krystal De La Cruz and then added five more with two outs in the second against De La Cruz and freshman reliever Jenny Chapman.

“We have played at a lot of big venues this year to try to prepare for this moment,” said Montgomery. “We played at Texas, at LSU and even played Oklahoma at Hall of Fame Stadium. However, nothing can prepare you for this moment except experiencing it firsthand. We looked like we were allowing the moment to get too big and by the time we settled down, it was too late.

“I’m proud of the fight we showed. We have done that all year. We didn’t allow the score to dictate our approach or our effort. Maybe I shouldn’t have sent Morgan (Turkoly) on the last play of the game but I was treating it like it was a game-winning run. We just wanted to make them at least come to the plate in the bottom of the inning. Our kids are resilient and they showed that.”

Trailing 11-1 with two outs in the top of the fifth and down to its final out, Tech outfielder Jazlyn Crowder walked and Tori Charters singled to third base to put runners on first and second. Turkoly then followed with an RBI single up the middle, scoring Crowder and cutting the deficit to 11-2.

With Charters at third and Turkoly at second, pinch hitter Ali Galaz hit a grounder to second that Minnesota infielder Makenna Partain booted, allowing Galaz to reach safely and Charters to score. However, Turkoly was thrown out on a bang-bang play at home trying to score from second and Tech was run-ruled for the first time this season. It was Minnesota’s 24th run-rule win of the season.

“You can’t make mistakes against them,” said Montgomery. “They are relentless at the plate. We struggled in the circle early. We had a pitcher who was throwing on the Division II level and then a true freshman throwing the first two innings. Maybe that was bad coaching by me. Maybe we should have gone with more experience. All I know is by the time we got things settled down, they were up eight runs.”

Trailing 8-0 after two innings against Minnesota All-American Sara Groenewegen, the Lady Techsters finally got to the Gophers staff in the third. With two outs and no runners on base, Crowder singled up the middle against reliever Amber Fiser and then Charters reached on a fielding error by Minnesota first baseman Sydney Dwyer. Turkoly then blooped a single down the left field line to score Crowder and cut the Gophers advantage to 8-1.

Junior pitcher Bailey Allen came on in relief for Tech to record the final out of the bottom of the second. Allen stayed composed and was an out away from working a scoreless third inning, but three errors with two outs by the Tech infield allowed three unearned runs to score to push the Gophers advantage to 11-1.

De La Cruz (13-4) took the loss, allowing five runs on four this and one walk in just 1.1 innings. Chapman allowed three runs on three hits and one walk in 1/3 of an inning while Allen pitched the final 2.1 innings, allowing three unearned runs on two hits and one walk.

Offensively, Turkoly led Tech with two hits and two RBI while Crowder (2 runs) and Charters (run) each added a hit. Crowder tied the LA Tech single season runs scored record with 48, set last season by Anna Cross.

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Malcolm Butler

Malcolm Butler

Associate Athletics Director of Media Relations, Louisiana Tech

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