'We're only getting better': Gophers softball prepares for 1st-ever College World Series

The Minnesota Gophers softball team advanced to their first-ever College World Series with a sweep of LSU in a best of three series over the weekend. 

Then, on Sunday, the team was hailed as heroes at Target Field as part of a Twins celebration that included a ceremonial first pitch that the young women will never forget.

“It was really awesome. People in crowd, everywhere we walked, people cheered for us and said congratulations. You felt like a celebrity. It was pretty awesome,” outfielder Maddie Houlihan said.

Coach Jamie Trachsel said it was a very special moment.

“The state has gotten behind us, and we feel the weight and energy of it," she said. "When we go to [Oklahoma City], we'll be proud to represent the state of Minnesota and appreciate all the support." 

Trachsel, who is in just her second season leading the Gophers, reports her team is ready to take on softball’s best at the eight-team championship that has become must-see TV on ESPN.

Her players insist they welcome the underdog role as newcomers to the World Series party.

“I think we just do our thing, don’t need to change anything,” said Gophers freshman Natalie Denhartog. “We’re a team that can compete with any team. We’re focused on taking care of our business. We’ll definitely enjoy the outside factors and all the things that go with it. We’ll practice, work hard, keep doing what we’ve done all year.”

“It’s incredible. We try to take it all in. That’s what we did yesterday, and that’s why we will re-attack what’s in front of us today,” Trachsel added.

Houlihan said this is what she dreamed of as a kid.

“I came to Minnesota knowing they’d be competitive and we’d compete for championships along the way, but you never really know and a team can either choke at the end or peak at the right time," she said. "I still feel like we’re only getting better, which is super exciting.”

The University of Minnesota organized a team sendoff and autograph session at Athlete's Village, set for 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.