Gophers lose twice to No. 8 Michigan on the road

Noah Seligman

The roller-coaster ride continued over the weekend for Minnesota’s softball team.

For the first time this season the Gophers were swept in a series. Minnesota (28-19, 7-7 Big Ten) dropped two games to eighth-ranked Michigan (42-7, 13-1), losing 2-0 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday.

The Wolverines, meanwhile, improved their home record this season to 12-0.

“We had expectations coming in,” coach Lisa Bernstein said. “We didn’t get the job done.”

After winning nine straight games from March 17 to April 2, the Gophers have lost three straight, and are 6-8 in their last 14 games.

But despite the recent setbacks, Minnesota felt that the weekend series against the Wolverines did provide some positives for the team.

“This was a good weekend,” Bernstein said. “(It was) a good learning experience.”

After regular starting shortstop Rachel Keeney suffered a hand injury in Friday’s loss, X-rays were done and it was determined that Keeney would be unavailable to play on Saturday.

Sophomore Melissa Murnane had to learn on the job – and quickly – on Saturday.

Murnane said she found out at 10 p.m. on Friday that she would be starting Saturday.

Despite not having made a plate appearance since Feb. 29, Murnane said she felt confident after practicing with the coaching staff.

“We had worked a lot on my hitting,” she said. “(We) worked a lot on my timing.”

The Farmington, Minn., native previously had 22 at-bats with 14 strikeouts on the season.

On Sunday she went 2-for-3 and scored the Gophers’ only run of the weekend, giving Minnesota an early 1-0 lead on Saturday.

But Michigan responded with three runs in the fourth and seventh innings to take control.

“We hung in there pretty well with them,” Murnane said. “They executed when they needed to.”

The loss on Saturday denied senior pitcher Piper Marten an opportunity to earn her first win against Michigan, and take over first all-time in Minnesota career wins. Marten has been stuck on 84 wins for three games.

She pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing all six Michigan runs – four earned – and striking out seven while walking four. She was perfect for three innings before the Wolverines broke through in the fourth inning.

The Gophers hit .189 as a team on the weekend and struck out 16 times while failing to draw a single walk. But they still felt it was their game to lose.

“They were both close games,” junior pitcher Lyn Peyer said. “There was nothing there that really intimidated us.”

Peyer absorbed the loss in Friday’s contest, allowing four hits. Both Michigan runs were unearned.

Peyer (5-6) said she tried to keep Michigan’s hitters off-balance and worked to hit her spots. She also credited her teammates in the field with playing a solid game in support.

“My defense did a great job behind me,” she said. “They really helped me out.”

Now it’s just a matter of getting the job done at the dish.

“We had opportunities,” Bernstein said. “We just didn’t get the timely hits. We didn’t execute as well as we should have on our short game.”

Minnesota has two days off before hosting University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in a double-header on Tuesday evening at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.