Six seniors hope to guide final home softball weekend

Sam Campanaro

As the members of Minnesota’s softball team milled around the dugout Thursday afternoon, there was one recurring question among players.

“What are we doing today, coach?”

Co-head coach Lisa Bernstein laid out the day’s plans for the Gophers focusing on batting along with some infield work. With some chatter and zero hesitation the players took the field for one of their final practices of the season.

After a few days rest, Bernstein said everyone was feeling good and seemed to be in a good mood, ready to work and prepare for the weekend.

The Gophers (35-16-1, 11-7 Big Ten) will close their regular season with a home series against Wisconsin. The Badgers (17-24, 6-12) are the usual opponent for Minnesota at the end of the season, as they have been travel partners for the past several years.

However, the weekend carries more importance as the Gophers gear up for postseason action. With an already guaranteed spot in the Big Ten tournament, the Gophers will need a strong performance this weekend to get a bid to the NCAA regionals.

“This is our seniors’ first year to be going to the Big Ten tournament so this is a huge thing for us,” senior Shelly Nichols said.

Celebration is also in order with the last home series. The seniors will be honored for their four years of dedication to the Minnesota softball program.

The festivities include the annual senior banquet tonight and honoring the seniors and their families on the field Sunday.

The six seniors will have a chance to look at their successes and see how far they have come since they were freshmen.

“I think the strides that everyone has made on the team have been really exciting for us to watch,” senior Angie Recknor said. “We came in as these no name players from all over the country and we really came together to make a solid team.”

Even through the celebration, the Gophers know they have a job to do. Minnesota must focus on not only what will win games against Wisconsin, but also what will win games in the postseason.

The Gophers’ plan is to work on getting key RBIs. Leaving 36 runners on base last weekend made for long games and tired pitchers.

“We need to definitely be more efficient with our base runners so that our pitchers don’t have to go 13 or 14 innings to win these ball games,” Bernstein said.

No matter what happens this weekend the focus will be on getting the wins. Whether the Gophers are at practice, in a game or at a celebration they will likely keep the intensity that has been demanded of them throughout their careers.

“Most of us are gamers,” Recknor said “We’ve been playing this game since we were 5-years-old. Once we step between the lines it’s game time.”