A close team with a loose dugout is a big part of the success of many ball clubs.
We’ve all seen the highlights of practical jokes that are played on teammates in the dugout. Whether it’s an un-popped bubble of chewing gum on a player’s cap or a shaving cream pie during a teammate’s interview, the shenanigans usually make a team tighter.
The Gophers softball team is full of merry pranksters, like senior pitcher Wendy Logue, who contribute to the team’s unity.
Logue’s most recent transgression involved some sizzling salsa and associate coach Julie Standering.
Logue had gotten her hands on a corrosive condiment called Insanity Sauce and made the rounds feeding her teammates the hot stuff.
“I tasted it, and it was absolutely horrible,” she said. “It was so bad I couldn’t swallow.”
But the high jinks almost went too far when Logue convinced Standering to try some right before the team left for a road trip on Monday.
“We actually were late leaving for Iowa,” Logue said, “because Coach Standering couldn’t get on the bus because she couldn’t talk.”
Head coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien said that she enjoys the practical jokes, but warns that they may go too far sometimes.
“Oh my god,” she said. “They hurt Julie bad. I’m so glad it wasn’t me because if it would’ve been me it would not have been pretty. She was in bad shape. Her eyes watered for at least two hours.”
Standering admitted that she was somewhat mad, but added that she thinks the players knew they took the joke a little too far.
“It was brutal,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe, my eyes were watering, there was involuntary drooling — it was just wrong.”
But she can’t help laughing when she thinks back on it.
“It was probably the only way they could ever get me to shut up,” she said. “I heard that with that sauce, if you would go one more level higher, you have to sign a waiver. It’s lethal.”
While the prank heated up the team before the Iowa trip, a cold-front was right around the corner.
The Gophers were coming off a three-game losing streak to Michigan, and were in desperate need of some wins.
However, the Hawkeyes held Minnesota (33-13, 7-6 in the Big Ten) to five hits in the doubleheader, sweeping the 16th-ranked Gophers 1-0 and 2-0.
Winners of 19 of 20 games before dropping five, the team travels to Penn State for a three-game series this weekend with hopes of a victorious sweep.
“That is the only thing that is acceptable,” Bernstein-O’Brien said. “We need to go there and win three games and get back on track.”
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the only thing on track in Iowa was the pitching of Logue and Steph Klaviter.
Logue, who had her 13-game winning streak snapped against Michigan on Saturday, held Iowa to five hits and two runs, but saw her record drop to 14-4.
She said the team wasn’t its usual self on Tuesday, calling the players “scattered.”
While that’s not a positive way to depict a close-knit team, it is a good, positive term to describe the way Logue works the plate. She mixes several pitches, including a screw ball, curve, change curve, drop ball and high screwball, and scatters them across the plate with excellent control.
When she gets in trouble, she likes to fall back on her drop or her change curve, the two pitches she considers her best.
“She doesn’t ever really get riled on the mound,” Bernstein-O’Brien said, “so she doesn’t have any problems with walks.”
Logue credits her low walk numbers to watching her hero, Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux.
“I learn from watching him on TV,” she said. “He has such good control, and he’s such a mastermind.”
She’s a student of the game who can often be found watching the Gophers baseball team to learn from the pitchers.
Her head-first approach was part of the reason she was highly recruited by the coaching staff. Logue ultimately chose Minnesota over Iowa, and has steadily improved into a confident and successful pitcher.
“I love it here, and I can’t see myself being anywhere else,” she said. “This is definitely the best year I’ve had. I’m more of a control pitcher, while Klav is more of a power pitcher.”
When she came here as a freshman, Logue was part of a class that included second baseman Laura Peters and third baseman Amber Hegland.
The three of them have since become best friends, which is something that surprises Logue when she thinks back to that first day.
“The funny thing is, our freshman year we walked in here kind of leery of each other,” she said. “And now, walking out of here I think the three of us are probably the best friends anybody could be.”
Logue admits that she is sad to think that the trio will be broken up at the end of the season, but guarantees they will remain friends off the field.
As the end of her career approaches, Logue spent Wednesday’s practice doing things she hadn’t done for two years — taking batting practice and playing first base.
She and Bernstein-O’Brien said they want to add another potential weapon coming off the bench during games that Klaviter starts. With the team’s offense sputtering, it could use an extra boost.
Logue had played first when she wasn’t pitching during her first two years, and hit .308 as a sophomore. But a bad lower back has limited her, and the coaching staff determined that it would be best if she concentrated on pitching.
But with the Women’s College World Series as her ultimate goal, Logue is ready and willing to risk a little back pain for a chance at a ring.
“I don’t have too much time left here,” she said. “So I don’t really care about my back. I just want to keep playing.”
Maybe she could change the purpose of the Insanity Sauce from team relaxant to muscle relaxant.