Minnesota’s softball team was down 4-3 in the second game of a double-header against Drake on Wednesday after rallying for three runs in the last half-inning at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
“We’ll come back no matter what,” Stephanie Sward said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
But the Gophers’ late rally fell just short and they lost 4-3 after a 2-0 victory in the first game.
In game two, there were two outs and the bases were loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Senior Hailee Nanchy laced the ball just over Drake third baseman Katie Wappler’s head, inches foul down the left-field line.
The Gophers (28-17) thought the ball had tipped off her glove – meaning it was live – which would have enabled Sward to score from third and Katie Meyer to score the winning run from second.
Instead, the umpire ruled the ball foul, and Nanchy struck out to end the game.
Sward was standing on third during the last at-bat and said she saw the ball glance off Wappler’s glove.
But despite the close call, the Gophers said they had no one to blame but themselves.
“You have seven innings to score runs,” Sward said. “We just couldn’t string together hits.”
Minnesota also did not help itself by falling behind 4-0 in the first two innings.
“We hit the ball well in both games,” Megan Higginbotham said. “(But) in the first game we were finding the holes. It just happens like that.”
Starting pitcher Mandy Valadez only lasted 2/3 of an inning before being replaced by Lyn Peyer. Valadez was charged with all three of the Bulldogs’ runs in the first inning.
Peyer allowed one earned run in the second inning. Both Valadez and Peyer walked Drake’s leadoff hitter in the first and second innings on four pitches.
“We get the job done early pitching, and it’s a different ballgame,” co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “You can’t walk the leadoff hitter; you can’t defend the walk.”
The two leadoff walks were the only free passes issued by Valadez and Peyer, but they proved costly as the runners scored on both occasions.
For the sixth time in as many series, Minnesota won the first game of a two-game set before falling in game two.
The Gophers used a strong pitching performance from freshman Rene Konderik to take home the first game.
“Rene’s a competitor,” Bernstein said. “She’s going to come out there and she’s going to fight.”
The Peoria, Ariz., native pitched a complete game shutout, scattering nine hits over seven innings and striking out one batter while not allowing a walk.
Drake put two runners on base in the second through fifth innings, but Konderik was able to use her defense to work out of the jams. The Bulldogs stranded 10 runners in the game.
Offensively, the Gophers put a run on the board in the first and third innings.
Higginbotham hit a two-out triple in the bottom of the first, and Nanchy followed up with a stand-up double to left center to open the scoring.
In the third inning Sward reached on a slap bunt. After an intentional pass to Higginbotham, Drake changed pitchers.
Nanchy greeted the new hurler, Katie Shimon, with a single to right field to drive in Sward for the second run.
Minnesota returns to Big Ten play on Friday and Saturday. The Gophers travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on eighth-ranked Michigan for two games.