Gophers get three times the bad news over weekend

by Michael Dougherty

Bad things happen in threes, and the Gophers softball proved it this weekend. The team fell three and a half games behind first-place Michigan when the Wolverines swept all three games of the weekend series.
In the first game on Saturday, with the score tied 3-3, Michigan scored three runs in the sixth inning to win the game 6-3.
Minnesota (33-11) was done in by three errors in the game, and three RBIs from Michigan’s Catherine Davie, who became the third Wolverine to receive Big Ten Player of the Week honors based on her play against the Gophers.
In the third game of the series, the Gophers’ finally got their first lead. They led 3-1 in the third inning thanks to Shannon Beeler’s home run.
But Michigan (34-3) tacked three runs on the board in a fifth inning highlighted by Davie’s third home run of the season, putting the finishing touches on the three-game sweep.
Shakes rattle Michigan
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins makes it a point to visit Annie’s Parlour whenever her squad visits the University.
“Annie’s has great shakes,” Hutchins said. “Once every two years I allow myself to have one.”
But after this weekend’s trip, she might be rethinking her policy.
The team went to Annie’s after Saturday’s doubleheader. Then, on Sunday they made two errors which almost cost them the final game of the series. Hutchins, in her 15th season, blamed the shakes for the team’s drops.
“I think some of the fat from the shakes got in between their ears today,” she said light-heartedly.
One for the road
Usually suspensions harm the team that loses players. However, when Hutchins suspended pitchers Jamie Gillies and Marie Barda for violating team rules, the coach was forced to start Sara Griffin in all three games.
In this case, the suspensions hurt the Gophers because Griffin continued her dominance of Minnesota. She picked up the wins in all three games, improving her lifetime record against the Gophers to 10-0.
The Gophers had won 19 of their last 20 games before running into the red-hot Griffin, who is 21-0 this season.
Special K’s
In Saturday’s first game, both teams struggled with the erratic strike zone of umpire Chuck Berneche.
Berneche, alternating with two other umpires who each work one game behind the plate in a three-game series, called 14 strike outs in his game, compared to 12 in the other two games combined.
Nine of the 14 K’s in Berneche’s game came on called third strikes, causing Gophers coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien to be a bit confused.
“The strike zone was a little creative, I think,” she said.
Epi-Logue of a streak
Gophers pitcher Wendy Logue had her 13-game winning streak snapped in Saturday’s 9-0 loss.
The senior from Milan, Ill., had begun the season 1-2 before rattling off her impressive streak.
Hegland stays hot
While the Gophers only put 24 runners on base in the Michigan series, third baseman Amber Hegland reached base eight of those times.
The senior was 4-for-5 with four walks, improving her conference-leading on base percentage to .657, and her team leading batting average to .457.
Attendance high
Saturday’s doubleheader drew 633 fans, including men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins, making it the third-highest attended game in team history.
Eyeing the Hawkeyes
The 16th-ranked Gophers travel to Iowa to face the No. 22 Hawkeyes on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes have won five straight since they opened the Big Ten season with a four-game losing streak.
The Hawkeyes dominated the Big Ten last season with a 22-0 conference record, but lost to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.
Iowa advanced to the Women’s College World Series and took fifth place, ending the season ranked No. 5.
This season has been a bit different. With four freshmen starting for them, Iowa is a very young squad in the field. But they are held together by an experienced pitching staff headed by seniors Debbie Bilbao and Leticia Castellon. Bilbao is 16-5 on the season with a 0.97 ERA.