Midthun sets another career softball mark

by Mark Heller

Steph Midthun made Minnesota softball history this weekend.
The Gophers senior center fielder had her 200th hit of the season last month, and on Saturday stole two bases against Penn State. Midthun now has 67 for her career, which ranks second on the Minnesota all-time list. Mischel Doerr had 81 steals from 1990-1993.
The public address announcer at Bierman Softball Stadium informed the crowd of Midthun’s mark, but Midthun later said she didn’t realize what she had done. Statistics and personal records don’t seem to matter much to Midthun.
“I wasn’t aware of it at all,” she said. “But it’s an honor, I guess.”
Even with power hitters such as Shannon Beeler and Jordanne Nygren in the lineup, the Gophers have relied heavily on Midthun’s baserunning, a seemingly lost art in both softball and baseball.
“(The game) is starting to move more and more towards power hitting, with the bats changing,” Midthun said. “On this team especially, the important thing is for our (lead-off) hitter to get on, move over, and then a base hit scores a run. Stolen bases are still a big part of this game, especially on our team.”
Bait and switch
It can be hard enough being a student and an athlete at the same time, but Angel Braden and Michelle Bennett are also forced to share time at two different positions — sometimes in the same inning.
Bennett and Braden alternate between first and third bases. But they switch back and forth when the opposition is a slap-hitter or bunter.
And then they’ll switch back, over and over again.
“I’m more comfortable at first than at third with a slapper or bunter,” Bennett said. “(Angel) is probably better at picking up the bunt on the third-base side than I am. I’m probably more comfortable at first with a slap-hitter (at the plate) than she is, because I’ve had more experience with that.”
Braden missed five weeks earlier in the season because of an eye injury. Bennett has since spent more time at third, in hopes of preventing further injury to Braden at the hot corner.
The majority of slap-hitters in the Big Ten are left-handed with good speed. Bennett believes that Braden is better at picking up the ball and throwing to first quickly against the speedy slapper.
But the more Bennett plays at third, she said, the better.
“I’ve learned to be comfortable at both throughout the year,” Bennett said. “Originally I was more comfortable at first, but as I played at third more, it doesn’t really matter.”