Beeler adds injury to insult

by Todd Zolecki

The Gophers softball team wants Shannon Beeler at the plate when the bases are loaded. She’s a player who makes the clutch hit appear routine; in her two-year career with the Gophers they have been.
The shortstop leads the team this season in home runs (five) and RBIs (40) and is a constant threat from the cleanup spot in the Gophers’ lineup.
In her freshman year, she set Minnesota’s single season record with 62 RBIs, and her 10 home runs last year is the second-best one-year total in school history.
Wednesday, however, when the Gophers had the bases loaded in the sixth inning in the second game of their doubleheader against Iowa, Beeler couldn’t take her usual cuts. She left the game an inning earlier after diving for a ground ball.
Prior to the injury, Beeler went 2-for-3 in game one and 1-for-2 in game two.
Beeler appeared to injure her hand when she landed on the ground. Coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien said Beeler left Bierman Softball Stadium for X-rays but didn’t know the extent of her injury.
Gophers third baseman Amber Hegland moved to shortstop to replace Beeler; first baseman Jodi Halvorson moved to third, and freshman Dana Ballard came into the game to play first.
The Hawkeyes scored a run that inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Minnesota loaded the bases in the top of the sixth and seemed on the verge of busting out of its hitting funk and salvaging a split of the twin-bill.
With one out, Ballard came to the plate in Beeler’s spot.
“Having Shannon out of the lineup obviously hurts us,” Ballard said. “She’s a starter, and she’s our No. 4 batter, but we believe in each other.”
Ballard, who entered the game batting .173, struck out looking for the second out.
“I guess I didn’t see the ball too well,” Ballard said. “I think I was swinging under the ball a lot, and I just didn’t make contact with it.”
Renee Sbrocco popped out to the second baseman to end the inning. No runners scored and the Gophers lost the game 1-0.
“You want to have (Beeler) up in that situation,” Bernstein-O’Brien said. “It didn’t work out for us. We knew what we had to do, but we definitely could have used her at the plate.”
Bernstein-O’Brien does not want to speculate about what it might mean to the team if Beeler is unable to play this weekend against Ohio State. One thing is certain: Losing Beeler’s run production would make it even more difficult for the Gophers to snap out of their hitting slump.