Softball team is on the road again

by Mark Heller

Here’s nothing new: The Gophers softball team is on the road.
After all, they had been back in town a mere 36 hours, just enough time to leave Tuesday afternoon for doubleheaders against Drake today and Northern Iowa on Thursday.
During the regular season the Gophers (22-19) play 20 games at home (including the Metrodome Classic in February), 41 on the road. In the last 10 days, Minnesota has gone from Green Bay to Minneapolis, to Michigan State to Michigan, back to Minneapolis and now to Drake and Northern Iowa.
“It’s tough on the grades,” said junior Angela Braden, right before their bus pulled out of Bierman on Tuesday. “You’re traveling so much, even though we have a lot of study tables.”
So they’re a young team, seemingly on the road all the time — or at least more than the past couple of years — and they’re struggling in the win-loss column with four consecutive losses.
Sounds like a yearning for the bus and plane rides to end.
“Sick of leaving?” Braden asked. “No.”
Considering the work involved and the missed classes, it’s an odd response. Of course, the Gophers are 0-4 in their home stadium, so maybe they’re better off on the road for now.
Co-coach Julie Standering didn’t know the exact figures of road-to-home games, but indicated that next year’s schedule will be at home more often.
This season is far from over, and the juggling act between school and softball has been hardly an act.
“I think the girls are doing a very good job of balancing on the road, being away from home and playing good ball,” Standering said. “We need a couple of key hits and bring home some (wins).”
Minnesota will be at home to play Creighton — last year’s first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament — on Sunday. Then the Gophers host Green Bay for a doubleheader Tuesday before hitting the road to rekindle the Big Ten schedule.
They finish their conference schedule at home against Indiana and Purdue. Until then, their trip(s) have been more “long” than “strange.”
“We’re ready to play ball,” Standering said. “When you get these girls on the field, they play. They might be young, but they’ll have their day.”

Mark Heller covers softball and welcomes comments at [email protected]