Illinois blanks softball in Big Ten tourney opener

Sam Campanaro

Minnesota had to wait a few hours longer than planned before playing its first softball game at the Big Ten tournament. However, a few hours was nothing compared to the four years the seniors waited and worked to get to the tournament.

The scheduled noon start was pushed back until 5:30 p.m. Rain delays and an 18-inning game played by Northwestern and Michigan State were to blame for the late start.

After all the waiting, the Gophers (36-18-1) opened their first game with a 1-0 loss against Illinois (39-13-1).

“Our goal is obviously to always take care of the ball and we didn’t do that today,” co-head coach Lisa Bernstein said. “We didn’t get it done as a team today.”

Minnesota stuck to its game plan by starting pitcher Piper Marten. The pitching was evenly matched as Marten only allowed two hits and Illinois pitcher Sherri Taylor gave up the same.

The lone run in the game was scored in the third inning off an error by Gophers’ third baseman Jordanne Nygren.

Minnesota had plenty of opportunities to make up the one-run deficit. The Gophers put runners on base in four innings but were unable to produce RBI hits.

Minnesota outplayed the Illini on offense, leaving four runners on base to the Illini’s two.

“(Not scoring runs) is never our intent,” Bernstein said. “We had great at-bats. It was a good hard-fought game.”

Though the Gophers got their first game underway later than anticipated, they had the opportunity to scout potential opponents.

An 18 inning, 1-0 result in the Northwestern-Michigan State game and the same score in the Minnesota game are indications of how tight the competition will be through the remainder of the tournament.

“We got to see some great softball today,” Bernstein said. “Waiting to play is something we’re used to doing. We’re used to sitting on our butts all day and then getting up and playing.”

The Gophers now advance in the double-elimination tournament to the consolation bracket. Minnesota is scheduled to play the loser of Thursday night’s Wildcats-Michigan game today at noon.