Minnesota salvages doubleheader split with six runs in sixth

Emily Wickstrom

With consecutive wild innings, Minnesota’s softball team was able to redeem some of its dignity and gain a doubleheader split.

The Gophers (15-32) beat North Dakota State 9-7 after losing 1-0 to the Bison in a doubleheader Wednesday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

In the second game Minnesota took a 3-0 lead after the bottom of the fourth inning, when sophomore Chrissy Sward scored from first base on a Bison error.

But the Bison took advantage of a Gophers error in the top of the fifth and exploded for seven runs.

With two outs, North Dakota State outfielder Grete Peterson hit a grounder that bounced out of the glove of Gophers third baseman Mandy Valadez, allowing the first Bison run to score.

That kicked off the onslaught, as North Dakota State proceeded to score six more runs to take a 7-3 lead, sending 11 batters to the plate but not causing Gophers starting pitcher Briana Hassett any earned runs.

“Our defense has been pretty strong,” Minnesota co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “We really have gotten much better since the beginning of the year. Errors happen; the ball gets hit hard.”

In the bottom of the sixth, the Gophers went on their own scoring rampage.

Beginning with sophomore Megan Arns’ one-out double, Minnesota strung together eight straight hits off of Bison starting pitcher Amber Garrett, scoring six runs to take a 9-7 lead.

“We’d been hitting (Garrett) all game,” junior catcher Megan Higginbotham said. “We were all comfortable at bat. We knew we were going to get to her. We were seeing the ball well.”

The Gophers’ 14 total hits were the most they had in a single game all season.

“We just started hitting the ball and hitting’s contagious,” Minnesota co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “It was nice to have a big inning there and walk out of here with a ‘W.’ “

Higginbotham went 4-for-4 with three doubles, which broke the school record for doubles in a game.

“I didn’t know it was a record,” Higginbotham said. “It’s a cool thing, but I just came out, saw the ball well and hit the ball well.”

Senior outfielder Lindsey Erickson went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.

In the first game, the only run of the game came in the first inning, when Gophers pitcher Katie Dalen threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded, bringing in Lynnae Foshag.

Dalen finished with five strikeouts and giving up six hits.

Freshman Colleen Conway and junior Katie Meyer each had two hits to lead the Gophers.

“I wasn’t pleased with how we came out in that first game,” Bernstein said. “I didn’t think we were fired up the way we needed to be and we should have won two ballgames today.”