Swept by Badgers, softball narrowly misses postseason

David La Vaque

Minnesota’s softball team took the field at the Goodman Complex on Sunday in Madison, Wisc., knowing it must win to have any chance of making its first Big Ten Tournament in three years.

During the game, the Gophers received good news: Ohio State defeated Penn State, which meant a Minnesota victory stamped its tournament invitation.

But Badgers pitcher Andrea Kirchberg, who shutout Minnesota 1-0 on Saturday, turned the Gophers away once more.

Kirchberg’s three-hit, one-run performance against Minnesota on Sunday secured a 2-1 Wisconsin win, the sweep and another year between tournament berths for the Gophers.

Minnesota (37-19, 7-8 Big Ten) ends the season ninth in the conference. The top six teams make the Big Ten tournament.

“We couldn’t win a pair of one-run games and when that happens you don’t get to control your own destiny,” said Minnesota co-head coach Lisa Bernstein.

A plethora of near misses both offensively and defensively spelled doom for the Gophers.

On Sunday, the team scored its lone run in the sixth inning on an RBI single to left by Angie Recknor. Minnesota loaded the bases later in the frame but Kirchberg struckout Christine Lindberg to thwart a possible rally.

In the third, the Gophers defense suffered a lapse resulting in two runs on one play. Wisconsin’s Meghann Reiss singled to right with the bases loaded, scoring one run. A second run scored after Minnesota’s Hailee Nanchy overthrew second base trying to pick-off a runner.

But Kirchberg made the difference for Wisconsin (31-18, 11-6). She out-dueled Gophers ace Piper Marten on Saturday, then shut the door with Sunday’s win. Kirchberg recorded 24 strikeouts in the two games.

“Their pitching overpowered us,” Bernstein said. “Wisconsin got two great pitching performances from Kirchberg.”

Though disappointed with missing the playoffs by a near margin, Bernstein saw the series as a tough but encouraging lesson for her team.

“I hope next season the team feels like this after every loss,” Bernstein said. “We need to learn to be consistent next season in every meaning of the word.”

ï With six strikeouts over the weekend, the sophomore Marten reset Minnesota’s career record with 530 K’s. Marten surpassed Jennifer Johnson, who rang up 528 batters between 1993-97.

Rowing

Minnesota’s women’s rowing team finished fourth out of seven at the Big Ten Championships, hosted by Michigan State. In addition, sophomore Melissa Roche was named to the All-Big Ten First Team while Erin Streff earned All-Big Ten second team honors. It is the second time the Gophers have competed in the conference championships, improving their fifth-place showing of last year.

The Gophers ended the day with 78 points, while Ohio State gained 138 points for the conference title.

Minnesota had four of a possible five shells compete in the Grand Final, which is determined by the heat results earlier that day. The Grand Final includes the top four boats in each race.

Minnesota’s first Varsity Eight finished fourth in the Grand Final with a time of 6:47.8 Coxswain Libby Sharrow, Amber Riopel, Jackie Gagner, Jill Peters, Shelley Miller, Streff, Heidi Rose, Roche andBeth Hornby, gained 36 points of the total 78 points in one race.

Men’s track

Running at one of the top distance track meets in the nation, a trio of Gophers turned in some solid times at the Stanford hosted Cardinal Invitational at Cobb Track & Angell Field on Friday.

Minnesota’s Will McComb took top honors in the B-section of the 5,000-meter run. The junior clocked a NCAA provisional time 14:00.29.

Two-time All-American Toby Henkels placed fourth in the 800-meter run for the Gophers. Henkels also ran a NCAA provisional time (1:48.63) and was the second fastest collegiate athlete in the race.

All-American Andrew McKessock, coming off his Drake Relays title, placed 19th in the 1,500-meter run at 3:45.73.

Women’s track

Rachel Schutz won the 200 and 400-meter dashes to lead Minnesota’s women’s track and field team at the Minnesota Open on Saturday at the Bierman Track and Field Complex.

Schutz placed first in the 400-meter dash with a personal-best time of 56.26 seconds, the fifth-best time in school history, while also winning the 200-meter dash with a time of 26.17 seconds.

Alean Frawley won the hammer throw and shot put competitions, throwing the fifth-best hammer distance in Minnesota history with her first place toss of 160-feet, 11-inches. The sophomore also won the shot put with a throw of 48-feet, 7 1/4- inches.

Krista Anderson won the 3,000-meter run with a time of 11:16.55, and Megan MacArdy took first in the 5,000-meter run, finishing in 19:22.57.