In the bottom of the seventh inning during Sunday’s game at Bierman Softball Stadium, Minnesota freshman Tammi Hays reached on an infield hit.
With the speedy Hays on first and All-American slugger Shannon Beeler at the plate, Gophers co-coach Julie Standering decided to play the strategy game and had Beeler lay down a sacrifice bunt.
“With Jordanne Nygren and Michelle Bennett coming up and no outs, it’s a great opportunity to go ahead for Shannon Beeler to give herself up for the offensive strategy,” Standering said. “Everyone in the lineup has the ability to get a hit in a key situation or put the bunt down.”
So Beeler was able to sacrifice Hays over to second for the first out, but the Buckeyes wanted nothing to do with Nygren, so they intentionally walked her to face Bennett.
“Do this,” screamed Nygren to Bennett as she headed to first.
Bennett hit into a double play to end the inning.
That was the way it went for the Gophers offense last weekend against Ohio State. In three games, Minnesota had 23 hits but only four runs.
The receiving end of Minnesota’s offensive futility was the pitching staff, and Steph Klaviter in particular.
“I told them all I hated them,” Klaviter said, “and that I’m not going back on the field.
“I wasn’t worried. We knew we were going to win, it was just a matter of when we wanted to win.”
One of few hitters that was on their game last weekend was right fielder Morgan Holden, who entered the series hitting .269 in conference games. She went 6-for-11 over the weekend to raise her conference average up to .317.
“About (the time of the Wisconsin series) I started to hit the ball better, and it’s kind of wavered a little since then,” Holden said. “Some weekends I’ll do well and then I won’t see the ball well the next series. But I was seeing the ball and being aggressive. It was a mind-set and it worked well for me.”
As for the lack of run production last weekend, Holden believes one weekend has no bearing on the next.
“I don’t worry about it,” she said. “When we play (Penn State) on Friday, it’s a completely different day. I’m very optimistic. We’re going to come through. We can hit the ball.”
The rest of the Gophers seem to share that same confidence about their chances this weekend, especially with the pitching and intensity they played with against Ohio State.
“They’re going down,” Hays said. “Penn State will not win on Friday, I guarantee it.”
Not surprisingly, Klaviter was named the Big Ten pitcher of the week this week.
She went 2-1 with one save this week. In 29 innings, Klaviter posted a 1.69 ERA and struck out 23. She leads the conference in wins with 11 and shutouts with six, and ranks second in ERA at 1.38.