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Eight-game homestand continues with two Big Ten foes

The Hoosier state is famous for basketball but unknown as a haven for softball.

So far this season, Indiana (23-23, 0-6 Big Ten) and Purdue (23-17, 0-6) have done little to change that image.

Minnesota’s softball team continues its eight-game home stand this weekend as the Gophers (25-14, 5-3) host the Boilermakers and Hoosiers at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Minnesota coach Lisa Bernstein doesn’t think the records of the two foes are indicative of how good they are.

“They’re both solid all the way around,” she said. “They’re not overpowering in one area, but they’re going to come to play.”

While Purdue coach Carol Bruggeman said her team will be eager to compete and try to break into the win column in the conference, it will have to do so without some key contributors.

Junior second basemen Andrea Hillsey tore her anterior cruciate

ligament on March 25, ending

her season.

Hillsey earned NFCA first team All-American and first team All-Big Ten honors last season.

The Boilermakers have lost two other starters to the infirmary this season.

“The biggest thing is the injuries,” Bruggeman said of the slow conference start. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The Boilermakers have lost their last four games and seven of their last eight overall.

Purdue starts only two upperclassmen, and its roster has 12 underclassmen.

Earlier this season the Boilermakers beat the Gophers 5-0 in the fifth-place game at the National Invitational in San Jose, Calif., on March 14.

Since the win, Purdue has gone 10-10 while Minnesota has won 13 of 16 games.

But Bruggeman thinks that her team’s early season victory over the Gophers doesn’t mean anything for this weekend.

“We have a very different team on the field now than when we beat them,” she said. “Minnesota is always a very tough team to beat, especially at home.”

Indiana has found that to be true recently in the series’ history against Minnesota.

The Gophers have won 19 of their last 23 games against Indiana and outscored the Hoosiers by a margin of 17-2 in the last four meetings.

Start fast

In Minnesota’s 8-5 victory over Concordia-St. Paul in the second game of a double-header Wednesday, the Gophers scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning.

In the first game, the Gophers did not get their leadoff hitter on in any inning, and were shutout 1-0.

Overall in the season, Minnesota has struggled with scoring early on in games.

The Gophers have fallen behind in five of their last six games and six of their eight games in the Big Ten.

Minnesota has been outscored 18-2 in the first four innings in conference play and outscored its opponents 19-4 in the last three innings.

Generating offense from the start will be a focus for the Gophers this weekend.

“If we jump our right away we’ll blow teams away rather than letting them hand around and play with us,” junior Lyn Peyer said.

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