Gophers look to build on victory

Minnesota picked up its first win of the conference season last weekend in Madison.

Emily Wickstrom

For the first time in the Big Ten season, Minnesota’s softball team has some momentum to build on.

The Gophers (12-21, 1-7 Big Ten) won their first conference game last Sunday against Wisconsin after dropping their first seven.

“We definitely got the monkey off our back,” said junior Rene Konderik. “It’s nice to get that first win, especially a Big Ten win against a decent team. I think momentum-shift wise we have a lot going our way now.”

Minnesota hopes to pick up more than one win this weekend when it faces Penn State on Friday and Saturday in University Park, Pa., and Ohio State twice Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.

It is the Gophers’ final road trip of the season after spending two and a half months playing away from home.

“We are so happy it’s our last away weekend,” co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “We want to go out there and we want to win ballgames. It’s been a long, long road trip.

“I think we can culminate it with some Big Ten wins.”

Minnesota’s best chances for victories likely will come against the Nittany Lions, who have a matching 1-7 Big Ten record.

But the Penn State pitching staff also has the second-lowest staff ERA in the conference, at 1.34, and the potential for lots of success against the Gophers, who have the worst team batting average in the Big Ten (.205).

Still, Bernstein said she sees many reasons to be positive, especially after last weekend.

“In the game against Wisconsin it was neat because our three, four, five hitters went back-to-back-to-back hits,” Bernstein said. “It’s just contagious, and the more they hit the more comfortable they feel and the better they’re going to do.

“Nobody’s going out there at any at-bat not expecting to be successful.”

However, if the games against Penn State prove to be challenging for the Gophers, the doubleheader against Ohio State should be even more so.

The Buckeyes (26-14, 6-2 Big Ten) sit in third place in the conference and are on an eight-game winning streak.

But the Gophers said they feel they are closer than they have been all season to putting hitting, pitching and fielding all together and earning some wins.

“The last game against Wisconsin we finally started clicking as a team, which we haven’t done yet,” said junior Lisa Parks. “When all cylinders are going, people should watch out.”