Allie Arneson’s return brings depth at shortstop

Arneson had an injury that kept her out for the start of the season.

Infielder Allie Arneson throws to first base during a game against Northwestern on April 15, 2017 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

Infielder Allie Arneson throws to first base during a game against Northwestern on April 15, 2017 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Drew Cove

After a few weekends of work, Allie Arneson is back in the swing of the season.

The Gophers (17-11) begin Big Ten play this weekend against Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois and their roster is closer to full strength with Arneson back in the fold.

“There’s a difference [in] getting back when you’re initially cleared to come practice,” head coach Jamie Trachsel said. “She’s literally at that point of starting to get her legs underneath her as a defensive player and swinging the bat.”

Arneson is a shortstop for the team and has played in 15 of Minnesota’s 28 games this season, after an injury curtailed her to begin the season. She recently batted in her first three runs on the season in the final game of the Gophers’ series win over New Mexico State.

“I’ve had this injury for a while now. We’ve been working through it over the summer, and it came back right after the summer,” Arneson said. “It was almost a slap in the face when they told me the week and a half before we started traveling for the season that ‘hey, you have to sit at least four to six weeks.'”

After an MRI, the injury proved to be in her femur and not the hamstring, as she had thought. Once the injury was diagnosed correctly, Arneson said she could make a full recovery at a quicker pace.

She recovered on the shorter end of that 4-6 week timeframe, Arneson said, and got back into full-game shape in practice when she returned to play.

Last season, Arneson recorded a .284 batting average in her first year with Minnesota. She had 26 RBI on 33 hits. She also missed just one game in the Gophers’ 56-5 campaign in 2016-17.

While she made an impact offensively, Arneson’s arm strength is what comes to mind when teammate MaKenna Partain thinks of her.

“Just a cannon of an arm,” Partain said. “You do not see many people with arm strength like Allie; it’s unbelievable.”

Beyond her play on the field, Arneson is a vocal leader for the team. Softball is already a vocal sport, where teammates encourage each other from the bench and the field. Trachsel said Arneson is the team’s own “Tasmanian Devil.” Partain said she can hear Arneson between every single pitch.

“You’ll never go through a game and not hear Allie,” Partain said. “She’s always in the dugout talking, cheering [or] making people laugh.”

The leadership intangibles are one thing, but Trachsel said the team’s depth is improved with Arneson back from injury.

Minnesota balanced some utility players in the shortstop position while Arneson was out with the injury, but Trachsel, the mainstay shortstop from last season, is back full time.

“We’re starting to get healthy,” Trachsel said. “Piece by piece we’ve been getting better … but our consistency with out health is going to keep improving as we move through conference.”