In the first 11 games of the Big Ten season, the Minnesota softball team scored 35 runs — an average of more than three runs per game.
This weekend, the Gophers scored 25 runs in three games, an average of more than eight runs per game, against Indiana this weekend at the Bierman Softball Stadium.
Minnesota entered the series hitting just .239 as a team in conference play, but hit .380 with four home runs and five extra-base hits against the Hoosiers pitching.
The power surge was a welcome sight to Minnesota.
“We have been working on hitting and moving runners over in practice a lot this week,” Gophers co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “They did a good job of taking it from the practice field to the playing field.”
The lack of extra-base hits in recent series has been a major factor in the team’s lack of scoring. Very few extra-base hits forced the Gophers to string many hits together to score, something they struggled to do.
“You’re always looking for extra-base hits,” Bernstein said. “But there are a lot of things they are dependent upon. Pitching is a factor, umpiring, the defense plays real far back.”
Extra-base hitting and driving in runs were practiced heavily this week, and Minnesota seemed to have worked out any kinks. This was helped in part by a drill where the inability to score a runner from second could result in an athlete’s worst nightmare.
“We’ll put a runner on second,” Braden said. “Then whomever comes to bat, (Bernstein) will pitch to us and we have to score that run and place the ball where it needs to be in order to get that runner home.”
And if the runner doesn’t score, Braden said, “we have to run.”
Plenty of Gophers ran wild this weekend, however, as they shared the wealth of hits and run production through the entire lineup, something the team hadn’t done in recent weeks.
Case in point: Senior Erin Brophy, who entered this weekend’s series hitting .150 in conference play with one extra-base hit and one RBI in 20 at-bats.
Brophy hit a home run in each of the three games — all in the exact same spot over the left-center wall — and drove in five runs.
Brophy hit three home runs in two games against Bethune-Cookman in March.
The home runs were a return to Brophy’s days as a youth. For the rest of the Gophers, it marks a return to power ball.
“I’ve never been a base-hit hitter,” Brophy said. “It’s always been extra-base hits or nothing at all.”