Hope Brandner's deadly explosion allows Gophers to reach regional finals



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Then, standing in the end of the eighth inning with a 1-1 draw, the Gophers first baseman was looking for change, and only change.

"I just decided to sit on the change and get through it the best I could," said Brandner, "and see what I could do with it."

She pummeled him. Brandner knew she had hit him well, but was not 100% sure the ball went over the fence.

No one else had doubt. The Gophers' second ace, Amber Fiser, saw the ball leave the stick, she started running through the canoe, focusing only on not tripping over anyone going to the field to celebrate.

Gophers coach Jamie Trachsel immediately started jumping for joy. She admitted that she did not even see the ball go over the wall. She did not need it.

"She crushed it," Trachsel said.

Brandner's explosion crossed the barrier in the center left, jumping off the wall of the football practice center and sending No. 7 seed Gophers to the Minneapolis Regional Finale with a 2-1 win over Georgia .

"It was just pure excitement," said Brandner, who left Oregon State for the final season. "[I was] so proud and just happy. "

Minnesota will face all the losers in Sunday's regional final, needing just one win in two games to qualify for the Super Regional next weekend.

It's far from the edge of elimination where the Gophers found themselves a race earlier.

Fiser was dominant for the second time in as many games of this regional. Less than a day after being cleared by three hits against North Dakota, Fiser managed to protect the striker against Georgia by five innings Saturday.

Then, in the top of the sixth, Jordan Doggett, a junior from Georgia, hit a Fiser field and sent him over the center fence to give the Bulldogs their first blow and a 1-0 lead. .

"I knew they were going to have shots, and it's a shame that this one was released at home," Fiser said. "But I could not do anything about it. I missed my pitch and she took it. "

Fiser finished the sixth inning and held Georgia scoreless at the start of the seventh. She was brilliant, but about to be an unlucky loser. Minnesota (43-12) was in his last three outs with his low of the drive due to the seventh.

But Ali Lindner made a lap, then Taylor Chell was hit by a throw. Trachsel raised his arms over almost every shot, imploring the Gophers faithful to increase the volume of a decibel or two. Georgia coaches were trying to keep their players calm. The crowd made it almost impossible.

Suddenly, the Gophers had a runner in position to score with a setback, and leading striker MaKenna Partain to the plate. Fiser had a "hunch". Partain had to be touched.

"I knew she was going to be for us," Fiser said. "She was looking for her land, she was ready and it showed."

Partain went after the first pitch, as Trachsel saw him do so many times this season, and scored one in the center. Trachsel vigorously greeted Lindner's house and she slipped safely to equalize the score.

"Kenna has a lot of confidence and that's why she opens her eyes. At any time, it's the one you want, "said Trachsel. "It's just who she is. … Kenna, she's winning.

Fiser came back to launch the eighth. She had to face Alyssa DiCarlo, the best player in Georgia, with two outs and a base runner. The coach of the Gophers pitchers, Piper Ritter, has approached the circle. Fiser wondered if Ritter could suggest Fiser to walk DiCarlo. This was not the case.

"She said to go after her, to trust your business and to know that you are well trained to get here," said Fiser. "It's a bit of the motivational speech I needed."

Fiser hit DiCarlo for his eighth game barrage. It's only made two hits in eight innings.

This allowed Brandner to play the role of hero at the bottom of the frame.

"Amber has probably launched one of the best games of the season," said Brandner. "It was just an amazing match. I just wanted her to know we were finding her again. "

This message was sent loud and clear when Brandner sent the ball over the fence.

Saturday marked Minnesota's first comeback in the sixth inning or later in the season. The Gophers had already had close exchanges, but they failed to do so, as they had done in previous regional competitions in recent years.

Not Saturday.

"Today was a turning point for our team," said Trachsel, "find the way to win this game."

Maybe this team is really different.

"I think it has proven to us that we belong to be here," said Brandner, "and we deserve it."

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