Riding the high of two conference wins, confidence appears to be elevated for the Minnesota softball team.
Excited after a sweep of Indiana at home Sunday, the Gophers will look to build on their success while traveling to Wisconsin Green Bay for a rescheduled doubleheader, starting at 1 p.m. today.
“It helps to win,” sophomore pitcher Katie Dalen said. “Sunday was a huge confidence booster for us, and now we’ve got a chance to go into Wisconsin and use that to keep rolling.”
With all the focus Minnesota puts on the conference season, it would be easy for the team to overlook this series. But junior outfielder Colleen Powers said she felt that wouldn’t be a problem.
“Thanks to the weather, we’ve lost a lot of games already this year, so we understand the importance of picking up wins when we can,” Powers said. “Getting pumped up for this game compared to a conference game isn’t that much different, because every win is important.”
The two-game series against the Phoenix should be a good opportunity for the Gophers to mount a four-game win streak before returning home Thursday to face North Dakota State.
Wisconsin Green Bay (9-12 overall, 1-4 Horizon) has struggled mightily at the plate, hitting just .234 as a team, while compiling only four home runs in 21 games.
The Phoenix pitching staff hasn’t done much better, as the four hurlers have combined for a 3.72 earned run average while allowing opponents to hit .306.
Meanwhile, Minnesota (15-16, 2-4 Big Ten) is on the upswing. After a tough start to the year, the Gophers have started to find themselves offensively. Senior shortstop Megan Higginbotham caught fire last weekend, going 9-14 with two home runs and eight runs scored, boosting her batting average back above the .300 mark.
But the top half of the lineup produced most of the runs. The bottom third went just 4-38 on the weekend, which could become cause for concern.
“To win games we need to put up runs, and if we’re going to be successful with that, the bottom of the lineup needs to find ways to get on base,” Powers said.
“It’s just as important for us to get on as it is for a three or four hitter. The whole lineup needs to produce.”
The bottom three showed life in the Gophers’ last game of the Indiana series. Powers doubled to left, while junior outfielder Chrissy Sward singled up the middle.
And as steady production is a key for Minnesota to succeed this season, coach Lisa Bernstein appeared to be comfortable with the team’s level of progression.
“I was real proud of our team this weekend; against Indiana the entire lineup did their jobs, and that’s what we needed to pull out a win,” Bernstein said. “Now we’re just looking to head up to Green Bay, hopefully grab a couple of wins and come back home.”