Ho-hum. Gophers sweep Drake

by Michael Rand

Shannon Beeler’s home run to left center field in the bottom of the ninth inning, which gave the Gophers softball team a doubleheader sweep against Drake on Thursday, could not have been much more dramatic.
Beeler’s teammates gave her the expected celebration at home plate and the crowd at the Bierman Softball Complex clapped and whistled at the exciting finish of Minnesota’s last home game of the season.
But something was missing.
The Gophers’ 5-0 and 1-0 wins over Drake weren’t exactly meaningless, but the importance of the doubleheader is dwarfed by this weekend’s final three Big Ten games at Purdue. Minnesota needs to sweep the Boilermakers in order to make the conference tournament. It’s as simple as that, and everyone on the Gophers knows it.
The team’s understanding of that situation almost made Beeler’s game-winning blast seem like an afterthought. Minnesota had a team meeting out in left field following Thursday’s action; the subject was not Drake. It was as if the Gophers players were saying, “All right. That’s over. We won. Now let’s move on to the main event.”
That certainly seems to have been Beeler’s attitude when she stepped to the plate in the ninth inning.
“I was thinking of hitting the ball over the fence,” she said. “Wendy (Logue) said to me, ‘Hey Beeler, I want to score this inning.’ And I was like, ‘All right, gotcha.'”
Now comes Purdue.
After dropping both ends of a doubleheader Wednesday at Wisconsin, the Gophers were in danger of being eliminated from the race to make the Big Ten tournament.
But the Boilermakers, who would have knocked Minnesota out of contention with a sweep of Ohio State, instead split with the Buckeyes (4-15 in the Big Ten). That gave the Gophers a reprieve, and they intend to capitalize on it.
“We should have taken care of business against Wisconsin,” Gophers coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien said. “But the softball gods are smiling on us and the kids know that. We have an opportunity.”
Purdue (39-22, 12-9 in the Big Ten) is obviously not going to fall willingly. Jenny Schoen (.406 batting average, 33 RBIs) leads an above average lineup that is fourth in the Big Ten in batting average and home runs. Sheryl Scheve (23-6, 1.67 ERA) will log the majority of the innings on the mound.
Within the games themselves, the Gophers will rely on the resurgence of an offense that has struggled lately and the continued dominance of their pitching staff.
Emotionally, Minnesota players said they will feed off their new opportunity.
“We’ve shot every foot possible on this team,” Gophers right fielder Renee Sbrocco said. “But now we’ve been given a chance. It pumps me up.
Drake 000 000 0 — 0 5 2
Gophers 310 100 x — 5 8 0
Dra — Haak and Amy Thompson; Min — Klaviter and Bartholmey. W — Klaviter, 15-3. L — Haak, 15-10. T — 1:40. A — 246.

Drake 000 000 000 — 0 4 3
Gophers 000 000 001 — 1 5 0
Dra — Carol Thompson and Amy Thompson; Min — Logue and Bartholmey. W — Logue, 12-5. L — Thompson, 10-9. HR — Beeler, 6. T — 2:00. A — 246.