Gophers focused heading into midweek series

Monday’s practice was highly intense after the Gophers let a sweep slip away.

by Mark Heise

After letting a sweep of Ohio State slip through its fingers, the Minnesota softball team’s Monday practice seemed filled with an even higher level of concentration than normal.

High-intensity infield drills sent noise echoing throughout Jane Sage Cowles stadium, as the Gophers (24-15 overall, 7-7 Big Ten) prepared to host Wisconsin-Green Bay in a doubleheader today at 4 p.m.

Coaches and players alike seemed to have the same goal for the midweek series.

“Whenever you’re faced with a loss like that, it’s internally motivational,” senior outfielder Colleen Powers said. “We aren’t in a position to sit back and relax, and I think everyone here can’t wait to get back out on the field and take care of business.”

While a non-conference game like Wisconsin-Green Bay could be considered an opportunity for a team to rest and take care of ailing injuries, a fairly healthy Minnesota team will not be taking this series so lightly, coach Lisa Bernstein said.

In fact, the Gophers didn’t even take a break prior to the game.

“We’re working hard, we’ve got things we need to improve on and we’re not taking any rest,” she said. “We’re trying to gain steam right now and peak at the right time. We could’ve given them the day off on a cold day like this, but we’re out here to get better.”

With that mindset, Minnesota shouldn’t have too many problems against the Phoenix, who have lost 10 of their last 12 games.

The Gophers’ recent offensive struggles should disappear with the .336 average Green Bay pitchers are allowing opponents.

Along with that, the Phoenix (8-20, 2-8 Summit) are 0-13 in away games this season, struggling mightily on the road.

Junior catcher Missy Schleicher leads Green Bay’s anemic offense with a .273 batting average and 11 RBI.

Minnesota has six players on its roster with at least that many RBI, with seniors Amber Nelsen and Sila Fernandez leading the way, tallying 20 apiece.

The Gophers outrank Green Bay in nearly every statistical category, making them the clear favorites in the two-game series.

If nothing else, this midweek game should be a nice break from the pressures of the Big Ten season, and this point was something senior outfielder Casey Wheeler stressed.

“The fact that it’s not a conference game is nice,” she said. “It’ll be nice to be able to relax and get some good swings in. Getting good swings will probably be the biggest concern for us.”