Road-weary Gophers suffer four more losses

Emily Wickstrom

This season, the road has not been kind to Minnesota’s softball team.

In the past three weeks, the Gophers have gone 1-11 in Big Ten away games.

Minnesota (12-25, 1-11 Big Ten) dropped all four of its weekend games, falling 3-0 to Penn State on Friday and Saturday in University Park, Pa., and losing to Ohio State by scores of 9-5 and 9-0 in a doubleheader Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win some ball games this weekend,” co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “We’ve got to keep working harder and working smarter so we can turn this thing around.”

In the series against Penn State, Minnesota struggled to figure out fifth-year senior Missy Beseres, who pitched all seven innings of both games for the Nittany Lions (25-11, 3-7 Big Ten).

Beseres was nearly unhittable, allowing four total hits and striking out 19 batters in 14 innings.

“(Beseres) has a tremendous amount of experience,” junior Megan Higginbotham said. “She definitely knows how to play the game. She’s one of the top pitchers in the Big Ten.”

No Gophers hitter managed more than one hit off Beseres, with Minnesota’s No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters going a combined 0-for-18.

“The ball just didn’t fall our way,” Bernstein said.

In Sunday’s first game against the Buckeyes, Minnesota took a 2-0 lead in the first inning after senior Lindsey Erickson scored on a double steal and Valerie Alston hit an RBI double to left center.

But Ohio State (38-14, 8-2 Big Ten) quickly responded with five runs in the bottom of the first inning, ignited by Courtney Pruner who hit a two-run triple.

The Gophers cut the score to 7-5 in the fifth inning after Erickson tripled and was hit in by Chrissy Sward. Alston followed three batters later with a two-run single.

In the second game against the Buckeyes, Minnesota’s pitching staff fell behind immediately, with the combination of Katie Dalen and Rene Konderik giving up nine runs in the first two innings.

Pruner, Billie Carder and Jamee Juarez led the way for Ohio State, hitting a combined 9-for-15 with 12 total RBIs.

Even though the Gophers mustered just five runs in four games and have been shut out seven times in the past 10 games, Bernstein said she is still confident in Minnesota’s offense.

“Nobody’s giving up,” Bernstein said. “Everybody’s going to be in the (batting) cages again on Tuesday.”

Higginbotham said she was encouraged by the Gophers’ offensive performance in the first game against Ohio State.

“Our hitting is coming around more and more and our hitting is starting to

come in groups,” Higginbotham said. “If we just keep our head on straight and we all have the goals to win, I think some things will fall into place.”