Minnesota unable to slow Buckeyes

Mark Heise

The offense began to reappear for the Minnesota softball team this weekend, perhaps giving the Gophers reason to be excited for the future.

Minnesota (13-14 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) lost a pair of games at Ohio State 4-2 Friday and 8-4 Saturday before having its doubleheader canceled at Penn State on Sunday.

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when: 6 p.m. Friday
where: Jane Sage Cowles Stadium

But the team took a step forward despite the losses, coach Lisa Bernstein said.

“We hit the ball as well as we have all season this weekend,” she said. “We’ve been consistent, putting the ball in play; we’re playing good ball right now.”

The Gophers came out strong in the first game, taking a 2-0 lead after five innings. Briana Hassett shut down Ohio State for the first five innings, allowing just four hits over that span.

Minnesota’s offense broke through in the third inning, as senior Mandy Valadez, who continues to see the ball well, collected an RBI double to give the Gophers the first run of the game.

Senior Lisa Parks drove in an insurance run in the fifth, curving the ball around the right-field foul pole for a solo home run.

But despite being given a 2-0 lead, the usually-solid Hassett struggled in the bottom of the sixth. Hassett gave up four runs on five hits, and took the loss as Minnesota failed to score late.

“Bri is doing a great job in the circle, things just didn’t go our way,” Valadez said. “We thought we had a double play that we missed the back end of, and we made a couple of mistakes. We just need to step it up defensively, and we’ll be fine.”

The Buckeyes continued to hit the ball well and jumped out to an early lead on Saturday. Ohio State rallied four runs in the first inning, added three in the sixth and piled on one more in the seventh.

The Gophers didn’t find their offense until the fifth inning, as junior Chrissy Sward scored from second on an RBI single from junior Colleen Powers.

That got the Minnesota bats started, as the Gophers scored another run in the sixth and rallied again in the seventh.

Junior Amber Nelsen drove home Parks in the sixth, and Valadez picked up a pair of RBI in the seventh, singling home sophomore Shannon Stemper and Powers.

But that was all Minnesota could muster, as Ohio State finished off the Gophers.

Minnesota collected 17 hits over two games, moving toward improvement as the 2007 conference season heads into full swing.

Parks credited the change in hitting strategy as a reason for the improvement.

“I think our team has changed our approach in our at-bats, looking for zones instead of certain pitches,” she said. “It’s helped to keep us from swinging at pitchers’ pitches and allows us to wait for the pitches we want. It’s a big step forward for us.”