Seniors likely to take final bows against Wisconsin

Chris Lempesis

Minnesota’s softball team still has a microscopic shot to extend its 2005 season, but chances are, this weekend marks the end of the line.

That would mean it is also time to bring the curtain down on the careers of the Gophers’ four seniors – shortstop Rachel Keeney, pitcher Lyn Peyer, and outfielders Christina Zimmerman and Stephanie Sward.

The foursome will more than likely close things out in the Gophers’ (25-25, 6-12 Big Ten) two-game set with rival Wisconsin (28-21, 9-9) on Saturday and Sunday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Game times are set for noon both days.

That being said, the window is not entirely closed.

If the Gophers sweep the Badgers and three other Big Ten teams (Indiana, Penn State and Illinois) pull off weekend sweeps, they would reach the conference tournament.

And even if they don’t reach the Big Tens, a weekend sweep, combined with the Gophers’ strong nonconference schedule, could still get them into an NCAA regional.

“I’m holding on to that little bit of hope right now,” Peyer said. “I think that, as a senior, the one chance to possibly go further and see what we can do Ö you’ve got to hold on to that.”

But both scenarios are highly unlikely.

Zimmerman said that while it hasn’t really hit her yet that her time at Minnesota could very well be over, she has already started becoming emotional about it.

“It’s something I’ve done all my life,” she said. “I’ve played this game all of my life, and to actually have a time and know that your time is done Ö you’re happy that you know. It’s better to know when the end is coming than to get it abruptly like so many professionals get, but it’s sad in the same sense, because it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s over.’ There’s no tomorrow.”

While the four might have but two games left in their careers, at least the games are at home against arguably the team’s biggest rival.

The seniors said that if they have to go out this weekend, it would be tough to find a better way to do it than to sweep Wisconsin.

“If we can have our very last game be a ‘W’ against them, that’s so sweet,” Zimmerman said. “That’ll be something to remember forever.”

The time they have spent as Gophers is something the seniors said they have treasured.

And as much as the players have treasured it, co-coach Lisa Bernstein said she feels just as strongly about them.

“They are a tremendous group,” Bernstein said. “They have grown and matured so much in their four years here both as individuals and as softball players. We’re going to miss them as players; we’re going to miss them as people.”