Walk to Beeler keys win for U

by Michael Dougherty

An unwritten rule in softball: Never intentionally move the go-ahead run into scoring position.
But Iowa State coach Ruth Crowe broke that rule and paid for it dearly in game two of Tuesday’s doubleheader with the Gophers. She intentionally walked Shannon Beeler with runners on first and third and one out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Crowe’s strategy backfired when Amber Hegland, a .453 hitter, got an infield single off Cyclones pitcher Kristin Ferguson’s glove, driving in Laura Peters with the tying run.
Katie Schwartz, who was pinch running for Morgan Holden, scored from third when catcher Erin Brophy lined a single to center field. Hegland would later come in on a throwing error by the catcher for the final run.
The rally helped the Gophers (41-16, 10-8 in the Big Ten) sweep the non-conference doubleheader at the Bierman Softball Complex, 4-0 and 3-1.
Despite getting bit by the walk to Beeler, Crowe said she stands by her decision, adding that she’d do it again.
“(Beeler) has got 63 RBIs, and I’ve always been taught that you don’t let their best player beat you,” Crowe said. “Unfortunately, they have some good hitters hitting behind her.”
Gophers coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien said she understands the coaching move, but said she wouldn’t have done it.
Beeler, meanwhile, said she was surprised by the move.
“I just didn’t expect it with Amber hitting .450 behind me,” she said.
Needless to say, Hegland was thrilled with the chance to hit with the game on the line.
“I loved it,” she said. “If they want me to show it to them, I’ll show it to them.”
The Gophers dug a hole for themselves early in game two when Beeler bobbled a grounder with one out in the top of the first, putting the Cyclones’ Michelle Junod on first. Junod would later score on an RBI single by Cinnamon Gooding.
From there, it was a pitcher’s duel between Ferguson and Wendy Logue, but Logue wound up with the complete-game victory, improving her record to 18-6.
Ferguson, a freshman from Barnum, Minn., said she was thrilled to pitch so well in front of a Minnesota crowd.
“I made a couple mistakes here and there, but we should have won it,” she said.
Ferguson had thrown five innings of four-hit ball before the deciding sixth, and Crowe said she was proud of her youngster.
“She did an outstanding job out on the mound for a freshman,” Crowe said. “She’s been out there against some of the best teams in the country, and really held her own.”
While the second game of the double-dip came down to the wire, the Gophers put their stamp on the first game early.
In the bottom of the second, Beeler scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch. Right fielder Michelle Bennett then doubled to center field, scoring Hegland and Erin Mooney.
Steph Klaviter pitched well, holding Iowa State (15-25) to two hits in six shutout innings. Freshman Rayny Camacho pitched the seventh to preserve the game for Klaviter.
Bernstein-O’Brien said she was happy to see her pitchers throw well.
“Klav threw a lot of different pitches, and Wendy came in and threw her off-speed stuff to really mix things up,” she said. “It was a great day. Getting over 40 wins is huge for Minnesota softball.”
The Gophers now must begin to prepare for five crucial Big Ten games in the next five days.
They have a doubleheader with Wisconsin (18-27-1, 7-12) today, and a three-game series with Michigan State (30-17, 11-10) this weekend.
Minnesota needs to win three of those five games to lock up a berth in the Big Ten tournament on May 9-10 in Ann Arbor, Mich.