Opening Big Ten weekend in Michigan yields zero victories

Michigan and Michigan State swept the Gophers this weekend.

Emily Wickstrom

Minnesota’s softball team did not open the Big Ten season as it would have hoped, but the Gophers are trying to see their struggles as room for improvement rather than a sign of bad things to come.

The Gophers (11-18, 0-4 Big Ten) dropped all four games in their first conference contests, losing 3-1 and 7-6 to Michigan State on Friday and Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., and two 8-0 games to Michigan on Sunday in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Obviously I’m disappointed that we didn’t walk out of here with any Ws,” said co-coach Lisa Bernstein. “But we saw a lot of positives about the team and individual players.”

The Gophers struggled mightily against the 2005 national champion Wolverines, mustering just four hits in two games compared with Michigan’s 15.

“We had to make some adjustments,” Bernstein said. “They have two very, very talented pitchers. We just weren’t able to find any holes.”

Wolverines starters Jennie Ritter and Lorilyn Wilson combined for 21 strikeouts in the doubleheader.

“They’re a tough ballclub and they’ve got great players, an All-American (senior Jennie Ritter) on the mound,” Bernstein said. “They just beat us.”

Minnesota’s young starting pitching combination of freshmen Katie Dalen and Briana Hassett gave up a total of 12 runs in both games, but Bernstein said she saw some bright spots from both pitchers.

“They’re learning and they know what they need to work on,” Bernstein said. “They didn’t have the success they wanted to in terms of getting a win, but we’ve got to get back to the bullpen and keep working to improve.”

On Saturday Minnesota was leading the Spartans 5-2 in the third inning, but Michigan State came back to score five runs in the sixth.

Dayna Feenstra’s bases-loaded walk off Hassett was followed by a two-run double by Caitlin Mahoney.

Mahoney finished the game with four RBIs.

“We worked hard to put it together, it just didn’t come through in our favor,” senior outfielder Lindsey Erickson said. “(Saturday) we out-hit Michigan State but things just didn’t go our way.”

Lisa Parks and Colleen Conway both had two hits against the Spartans.

Despite failing to get a win, Bernstein said she was pleased with the Gophers’ effort and the team left with a lot of positives.

“We made some great defensive plays, we had pitchers come in in relief situations and do a nice job of getting out of innings, we had some kids plugging in at bats,” Bernstein said. “People went in there and battled, it was exactly what we needed them to do.

“We just have to get back after it.”