Offensive woes at the heart of softball team’s slide

by Michael Dougherty

Losers of six of its last seven games, the 16th-ranked Gophers softball team has been experiencing a cold spell at the plate.
On Friday, April 10, the Gophers (34-14, 8-7 in the Big Ten) were first in the conference in batting with a .348 average. In the seven games since, they have gone 36-for-172, lowering their season average to .330.
Consequently, Minnesota has been outscored 35-13 in those games, something that has caused some concern for associate head coach Julie Standering.
“Our one and two hitters haven’t been getting on,” she said, “so our three and four hitters haven’t been able to drive anyone in there, and they’re used to having people on base.”
Clean-up hitter Shannon Beeler entered Easter weekend with a team leading 50 RBIs in the team’s first 40 games. At the time, it was almost a lock that she would break her own team record for RBIs in a season of 62 set in 1996.
However, since that weekend, Beeler’s bat has been passed over and the junior shortstop has driven in only four runs while her average has dipped 37 points.
Standering said she’s confident the team will rediscover its earlier offensive output.
“They are good hitters,” she said. “They’re solid fundamentally, and they’ll come through this.”
Polled over
While the Gophers’ record of 34-14 is nice, Minnesota has been treated rather rudely by other teams in the polls.
The Gophers’ two losses to No. 22 Iowa on Tuesday dropped their record to 2-11 against ranked opponents. Their only two wins came against Texas A&M on March 6 and 8.
18 and strife
It’s quite possible first baseman Dana Ballard is brandishing a souvenir foot-long bat handed out during Fan Appreciation Night at the Metrodome.
The sophomore is mired in an 0-for-18 slump, as her average has plummeted 43 points.
Senior pitcher Wendy Logue, who played some first base in her first two seasons, has recently been practicing there, causing speculation that Ballard might lose some playing time.
Screech is so wacky
Logue was asked what kind of television shows she watches in her free time, and her answer was not Must See TV.
“I watch ‘Saved by the Bell,'” she said. “My roommates are always yelling at me for watching it.”
Don’t touch that dial
There seems to be a discrepancy over who runs the music in one of the team vans when the squad is on the road.
“Wendy Logue runs the stereo in our van,” third baseman Amber Hegland said. “She’s into rap and stuff like that — it’s not bad.”
However, head coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien is a big country music fan, which can lead to occasional dial dalliances.
“I’m not much into country, so I don’t get very happy when they put it in,” Logue said. “When Coach B gets in those mellow moods that’s all she wants. She’s our driver, but I do whatever I can to get my music in there.”
Bernstein-O’Brien can handle the funky stuff for a while, but ultimately reverts to her old standby.
“I can definitely say that they have expanded my horizons of ’90s music,” she said. “But I have ultimate veto power.”
Slam the Doerr on record
Center fielder Steph Midthun needs two stolen bases to break Mischel Doerr’s single season record of 26 set in 1990.
However, Midthun has teammate Luara Peters in her rearview mirror. Peters has 23 thefts so far this season.
Have bat, will travel
Even though the team’s batting average continues to drop like Yankee Stadium support beams, Hegland has gone 9-for-15 over the last seven games with six walks. Her average is now at a robust .460.
If she finishes the season over .400, it will be the third straight year she has done so.
Gotta love the Drake
Minnesota travels to Des Moines, Iowa, today for a doubleheader with Drake.
The Bulldogs are 14-15 overall, but they have won seven of their last eight games.
The Gophers then head to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for a doubleheader with Northern Iowa on Wednesday. Minnesota has already beat the Panthers twice, with 7-1 and 7-3 wins in the Liberty Metrodome Softball Classic in mid-February.