Softball sneaks past Creighton at NCAAs, 2-0

Mark Heller

LOS ANGELES — After taking a look at Thursday’s first-round game against Creighton, no one will give the Minnesota softball team points for style.
But the Gophers used just enough substance to beat the Bluejays 2-0 in the first round of the NCAA regional tournament, putting off the possibility of having to face heavily favored UCLA for at least another day.
The win means Minnesota (47-18) will play No. 5 seed Cal-State Northridge (30-22) on Friday at 5 p.m.
Creighton will face the daunting task of trying to beat the No. 1 Bruins in order to stay alive in the tournament.
Minnesota knows that a win is a win, especially in the postseason. But this win was something of which the Gophers were less than proud.
“We’re happy to walk away with a win,” co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “We need to be more prepared offensively. We put the ball in play, but we were not aggressive. We need to hit pitches earlier in the count, and we didn’t move runners as well as we should have.”
Neither team seemed terribly interested in hitting the ball, and when they did get runners on base, a lack of execution squandered most scoring threats.
Both teams’ pitching can take some credit for the lack of production.
Minnesota’s Steph Klaviter thoroughly shut down the Bluejays, pitching her way out of a couple of early jams and holding Creighton in check the rest of the way. She went the distance, giving up just five hits and no runs. Klaviter struck out eight and walked none to improve to 23-9 this season.
“It isn’t luck when Steph Klaviter gets you through a game by putting balls on the ground,” Bernstein said. “She did an excellent job of keeping this team in the ballgame.”
“I was able to get in on them and jam the ball,” Klaviter said. “I was throwing the ball harder today. My spin wasn’t on the ball as much, but the defense played a great game.”
Klaviter got herself out of a bind in the third inning when Creighton put runners on second and third with one out. But the Bluejays failed on a suicide squeeze at home plate and a strikeout ended the inning.
“We’ve executed many (suicide squeezes) throughout the year,” Creighton coach Brent Bigness said. “That was the big momentum shift. And then we went out into the field and made mistakes.”
Those mistakes in the bottom of the third inning gave the Gophers the only two runs they would need. With Steph Midthun on third base and Tammi Hays on second with one out, Jordanne Nygren grounded to first. But the ball skipped off Brandi Weigel’s glove, allowing Midthun to score. Angel Braden then blooped a single to center field to score Hays.
“I’m disappointed in our fielding,” said Bluejays starter Renee Woods, who committed two of Creighton’s three errors in the game. “It’s a chain reaction. Once we made one error it just kept going.”
Woods took the loss despite going all six innings and giving up just four hits. Neither of Minnesota’s two runs were earned.
Bernstein said she knows the Gophers will have to bring their bats on Friday against the Matadors. Both teams’ coaches are familiar with each other.
“Cal-State is an aggressive team,” Bernstein said. “I played against (Northridge coach Janet Sherman) when she was at UCLA. They have good pitching and hitting, and she’s an aggressive coach, but if we come out aggressive we’ll be in good shape.”
After the way the Gophers hit on Thursday, that could be a big “if.”
“We did enough to win,” Bernstein said, “but by no means was that game what we’d want to put our signature on.”
ù In other NCAA regional action, Michigan lost to Florida-Atlantic in Ann Arbor, Mich, by a score of 2-0 in Region 6. In Region 8, Michigan State lost to De Paul 4-1.