The University of Minnesota took advantage of a fifth-inning Lady Vol fielding error and it proved to be the difference, as the Golden Gophers notched a 2-1 triumph on Sunday morning at the Triangle Classic.
With the triumph, UM (10-1) advances to the championship game of the softball tournament, where it will face host North Carolina. Tennessee (10-5-1) saw its season-high six-game winning streak snapped with the loss and junior Stephanie Humphrey (5-3) suffered the defeat despite tying her own school record for the third time with 13 strikeouts and giving up two hits. Sophomore Piper Marten raised her mark to a perfect 8-0 with 11 K and the righty gave up four hits.
"This is the first time we have ever lost on a strikeout," said co-head coach Ralph Weekly. "The girl who scored the winning run, Veronica Roberts, struck out and made it to first on an error by our first baseman. We should be able to make a simple pitch and catch. Stephanie pitched a very good game against an extremely solid Minnesota team that I believe will be an NCAA Regionalist without a doubt. The pitcher we faced (Marten) was the best we've seen all season. It is always good to get challenges like this in playoff competition."
Junior Anne Thul helped the Golden Gophers draw first blood with a solo homer off Humphrey with two down in the second inning. Her third shot of the campaign eluded the grasp of Lady Vol sophomore left fielder Leigh Ann Ellis, who had run back to the retractable fence in a vain attempt to snare the ball.
Tennessee notched the equalizer in the top of the third, when senior Adrianna Wilson stroked a two-out single into right field to drive in sophomore Ellisha Humphrey. Humphrey beat out an infield single with two down off Marten and managed to swipe her team-best fifth base of the season to move into scoring position.
A costly error by the Lady Vols in the fifth came back to haunt them, as Minnesota capitalized with an unearned run. Humphrey fanned junior Veronica Roberts to open the frame but a dropped third strike and a defensive breakdown gave the Gophers a leadoff runner. A sacrifice bunt from Thul pushed her teammate to second before Humphrey let loose a wild pitch to advance Roberts to third. A single up the middle by junior Angie Recknor brought across the winning run.
Junior second baseman Blaine Teasley was 2-for-3 to lead Tennessee. UT will be back in action at noon against Long Island, a team it edged on Friday afternoon, 2-1. Results from this game were unavailable at press time.