Gophers bats cold in two losses

Minnesota produced just four hits in two games as they lost to No. 6 Michigan on Sunday.

Offense was hard to come by for the Minnesota softball team in the chilly April weather over the weekend, and the lack of production cost the team its perfect home record.

The Gophers (21-12 overall, 4-4 Big Ten) recorded just four hits over two games against No. 6 Michigan on Sunday and collected their first two home losses as a result.

The Wolverines (38-4, 11-1) didn’t have the same problem, picking up 18 hits to sweep the doubleheader with 5-0 and 3-0 wins.

Senior second baseman Amber Nelson admitted the team struggled against some good pitching but said the weekend helped prepare them for the rest of the season.

“It was definitely a learning experience,” she said. “We’ll definitely be working on that offense, but now that we’ve seen those pitchers, we feel confident we can hit with the rest of the conference.”

Minnesota struggled to hit the ball against sophomore pitcher Nikki Nemitz, who controlled the first game with 12 strikeouts while allowing just three hits.

The Gophers failed to put the ball into play in five of their first six at-bats and had just three runners in scoring position throughout the game.

Junior catcher Shannon Stemper and senior outfielder Casey Wheeler tried to spark a rally in the seventh, with Stemper drawing a walk and Wheeler doubling her to third.

But that was as far as Minnesota got, as the team stranded both runners.

On the other side of the ball, the usually dominant junior pitcher Briana Hassett struggled to find the strike zone, walking five to allow all five earned runs in the first three innings.

Hassett managed to pitch out of trouble and keep the Wolverines off the board in the final four innings, but the damage was done, sending Minnesota to a 5-0 loss.

Nemitz improved her record to 18-2 with the win, while Hassett dropped to 14-5.

Junior pitcher Katie Dalen said from a pitcher’s perspective, Michigan was on top of its game Sunday.

“They kept our hitters off balance and made some good pitches,” Dalen said. “They’re a great team so, hats off to them I guess.”

Michigan scored early again in the second game, putting up two quick runs in the first two innings off Dalen.

Dalen recovered to shut down the Wolverines until the seventh inning, when Michigan senior left fielder parked a pitch over the scoreboard for the first home run of the day.

But Dalen couldn’t get run support either, as Minnesota squeaked out just hit against Michigan freshman pitcher Jordan Taylor.

The Gophers’ lone single came in the second inning however, as freshman shortstop Brianna Sudenga managed to sneak a shot over the second baseman’s head.

Taylor flew through the rest of the game, retiring 21 of 26 batters faced, 10 coming on strikeouts.

Taylor improved to 20-2, while Dalen picked up her seventh loss despite a strong effort.

“She did a good job,” coach Lisa Bernstein said. “She was spotting the ball and keeping the hitters off balance. I was proud of her performance.”