This probably isn’t the start the Minnesota softball team hoped for. The Gophers were swept by Michigan last weekend to drop their Big Ten record to 2-4 and damage their hopes for a Big Ten title.
Add Tuesday’s split with Iowa State (14-24) to the mix and Minnesota’s young season looks to be in need of a jump start.
“I was disappointed with our effort in the first game,” co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “But we responded well in the nightcap and hit the ball very well.”
Minnesota dropped the lackluster first game 3-1 before rallying for an 11-4 win in the second.
With the pitching efforts essentially the same, it was the hitting — or lack thereof — that made the difference. The Gophers managed just two hits in the first game off Iowa State’s Mandy Loushin, who struck out 10 and went all seven innings to improve her record to 7-11.
After a 20-minute break, the Gophers regrouped and reloaded for an 11-run outburst, fueled by a freshman and a senior.
Freshman Jordanne Nygren all but carried the Gophers to a win in the nightcap with seven RBIs, which tied the Minnesota single-game record. Nygren added to her season-leading home run tally with two bombs in the second game, her 11th and 12th of the season.
But the rookie’s formidable presence Tuesday was somewhat overshadowed by a career mark set by senior Shannon Beeler. Beeler hit her ninth home run of the season, a line-driver in the first inning, to become all-time Big Ten leader with 39 dingers.
Freshman Heather Brown was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst. She pitched just four innings and gave up two runs to improve her record to 9-1.
While Bernstein was pleased with her team’s play in the second game, she’s concerned with its lack of consistency.
“We need to play better on a consistent basis, especially with conference games coming up,” Bernstein said.
Minnesota is almost out of chances to get its act together. The Cyclones had dropped 10 of their last 11 games before facing the 22nd-ranked Gophers.
Minnesota plays its last non-conference games Thursday with Northern Iowa at Bierman Softball Stadium.
The Gophers will face Penn State in the Big Ten home opener Saturday, which starts a streak of 18 straight conference games.