Bats go cold and things fall apart after opening win

Minnesota beat Penn State in its Big Ten opener but then lost three straight games.

Chris Lempesis

The weekend began well for Minnesota’s softball team.

The Gophers tied their season high for runs scored in a game in Friday’s 9-4 win over Penn State in their Big Ten opener.

But things went considerably less smoothly the rest of the way, as Minnesota scored just three runs – one per game – in losing its final three contests of the weekend.

The Gophers (16-16, 1-3 Big Ten) dropped a 3-1 decision to Penn State on Saturday before being swept by Ohio State by scores of 13-1 and 5-1 on Sunday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

“We just struggled – everybody,” senior right fielder Stephanie Sward said. “I mean, not one person did good. Swinging at bad pitches, and I don’t know. They didn’t fall our way.”

Co-coach Lisa Bernstein said that a big problem, especially in Sunday’s games, was the team not being able to execute its style of small ball.

“We had opportunities to move runners in bunt situations,” she said. “We popped up quite a few of those opportunities, and it’s a little bit different with a runner at second base with an out than a runner at first base with an out.”

Despite the problems, Bernstein said, there will not be much of a change in the lineup at this point.

But the problems weren’t just on the offensive end; the Gophers fielders also struggled during the weekend, committing a total of 13 errors in the four games.

Those errors led to a total of eight unearned runs for the

Lions (20-13, 2-2) and the Buckeyes (18-10, 2-2).

Still, Bernstein said she is not worried about the state of the team’s defense.

“A lot of these balls, people can have opinions about,” she said. “But if you put a glove on some people and ask them to try to field some of these, they’re coming at them pretty hard.”

Minnesota also had to rely a bit too heavily on top starter Lyn Peyer, with freshman Katie Dalen out with a groin injury.

The senior pitched 17 1/3 of the 24 innings during the weekend, going 1-2. Her record now stands at 9-9.

“She moved the ball,” Bernstein said.

“When she gets fatigued, she has a tendency to get the ball up in the zone.”

Peyer never fully seemed to recover from Penn State’s three-run sixth inning Saturday.

Peyer retired 13 of 14 batters faced when Penn State began its rally. The Lions loaded the bases, scored a run on a wild pitch and got a two-run double from Jenn Reynolds to grab a 3-1 lead.

“Just came through with a clutch hit, finally,” Penn State coach Robin Petrini said. “Passed ball helped to get a little bit of momentum. But we finally came up with the hit we needed to open it up.”

Bernstein said the team needs to get Dalen healthy so it can head into a weekend with all four of its pitchers and reduce Peyer’s workload.

The load certainly doesn’t lighten up for the Gophers this weekend. After a doubleheader with Wisconsin-Green Bay on Wednesday, they will face No. 23 Northwestern and top-ranked Michigan this weekend at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

“There’s stuff we’ve got to work on,” Bernstein said. “We’ve got to keep our conditioning up, keep our legs strong, keep our minds clear and get ready to get after it on Wednesday and (this) weekend.”