Gophers set to take on Purdue

Minnesota will look to bounce back after losing its past four games.

Shortstop Tyler Walker prepares for a pitch April 1 at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Hannah Strickland, Daily File Photo

Shortstop Tyler Walker prepares for a pitch April 1 at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Betsy Helfand

Two weekends ago, Minnesota took two of three games from then-No. 20 Michigan.

The team was riding a high. But it crashed back down to Earth last week and will look to recover this weekend against Purdue.

Last weekend, the team saw nearly polar opposite results as it headed to State College, Pa. Penn State swept the Gophers even though it was, at the time, near the bottom of the conference.

Head coach Jessica Allister said she thought her players put more pressure on themselves last weekend after a successful weekend against Michigan.

“I think our team thought there was [more pressure], and that’s no way to play. You can’t play like that,” Allister said.

Allister said the team had players who were pressing, a comment echoed by shortstop Tyler Walker.

“We didn’t play as relaxed as we normally do, and we pressed, and it resulted in tough losses,” Walker said.

Allister said talking about preparation, ensuring players are prepared and having “trust in the process” could alleviate self-inflicted pressure.

“At the end of the day, if you can look in the mirror and say, ‘I did all the preparation I needed to; I put in all the work I needed to put in,’ then you have to be OK with the results because you can’t necessarily control it,” Allister said.

“We need to get back to understanding that we can’t control everything that happens, and once we stop trying to control everything that happens, we’ll be more successful.”

Allister said her team is “a group of perfectionists,” which may compound the problem.

“That’s why they’re good at what they do, but at the same time, you’ve got to keep them in check a little,” Allister said.

Softball is a game in which hitters can fail in seven out of 10 at-bats and still be considered successful, so players have to learn to deal with failure, Allister said.

“It’s a game of failure. You’re going to fail more than you’re going to succeed, so we need to learn to deal with that a little bit and enjoy the highs when we’re playing great but not allow ourselves to get too low,” Allister said.

After their last four-game losing streak, the Gophers promptly rattled off seven wins in their next 10 games.

“Last weekend was tough. I think it was definitely a mentally draining weekend, an emotional weekend, but it just fuels us for this coming series,” Walker said.

Minnesota (28-19, 7-11 Big Ten) will end the season with six games at home, starting with a series against Purdue (30-17, 12-5 Big Ten).

The Gophers have gone 4-2 against two of the top teams in the Big Ten — Michigan and Nebraska — at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.  They’ll look to repeat that home-field success against Purdue, which is currently tied with Nebraska for second in the conference.

The Boilermakers lead the Big Ten with 95 stolen bases, and Allister said she is expecting them to come out “feisty” and “gritty.”

The Gophers and Boilermakers will play a doubleheader Saturday before finishing the series Sunday.