Beeler, Peters earn top Big Ten honors

by Michael Dougherty

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After dropping the first game of the Big Ten tournament to Sara Griffin and second-ranked Michigan, the Gophers softball team had to sit down and break bread with her and the Wolverines at the Big Ten Awards Banquet on Friday night.
Junior Shannon Beeler and senior Laura Peters took home All-Big Ten first team honors for 22nd-ranked Minnesota.
This year Beeler broke team records for home runs (13), RBIs (73) and slugging percentage (.733).
Although they were happy with Beeler’s honor, there were a few people who thought Beeler should have been named Big Ten Player of the Year. That award went to Michigan first baseman Traci Conrad.
“I think Shannon Beeler should have won it,” teammate Amber Hegland said. “She put up some awesome numbers, and I don’t know who else is better than her in the conference.”
Hegland, who made the All-Big Ten second-team with Gophers pitcher Steph Klaviter, said she also thought center fielder Steph Midthun and pitcher Wendy Logue deserved to be recognized.
But Michigan, which won its fourth Big Ten Tournament title in a row on Saturday, dominated the awards with four players on the first team and one on the second team.
Griffin, who had won the Big Ten Player of the Year award in 1995 and 1996, took home Big Ten Pitcher of the Year this year. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Peters, meanwhile, was surprised by her award. Her dad, John Peters, gave the Minnesota coaches credit for turning her into a great ball player.
“She was ecstatic,” John Peters said. “She didn’t have any clue that it was coming, and I think she was pretty proud of herself.”
Hand it to Hegland
Hegland provided what many thought was the defensive play of the weekend in Saturday’s game against Northwestern.
In the bottom of the sixth, with a runner on first base, Northwestern’s Brittany Nelson, a left-handed slap-hitter, came to the plate.
“The coaches kept telling me to move in because she was going to slap, and I was just kind of like OK,'” Hegland said.
But Nelson swung away and ripped a sharp ground ball that Hegland corralled with all of her hand and part of her glove. She then turned and threw to second to record a force out.
“The defense that Minnesota put out their against us was very good,” Wildcat coach Sharon Drysdale said. “I mean, we hit some hard shots, especially that shot to third that Hegland came up with.”
Hegland, meanwhile, had an “aw-shucks” attitude about the play, but denied the ball hit her hand. “Reflexes,” she joked. “It hit my glove, I got it in the mit.”
Beeler provided a contradicting story.
“Yeah right,” Beeler said. “You should see her hand.”
A hero with zeroes
With her game-winning home run in Friday’s game, Iowa’s Shawnte Vallejo ended a gaudy Griffin streak.
Griffin had put up zeroes in 38 straight innings before that shot, and with her shutout against Minnesota on Saturday she has now given up one run in 45 innings.
Whiffin’ against Griffin
Griffin struck out 32 Minnesota batters in her five wins against the Gophers this season, including 15 in the Big Ten tournament.
“I didn’t think we were standing up there looking like we didn’t know what we were doing against her, like we had in the past,” Gophers coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien said. “When we played in Minnesota she owned us. We looked like bobby-socks for the most part.”
Sling Holden her arm
Gophers left fielder Morgan Holden was unable to play in the tournament because of a broken hand suffered while diving for a fly ball in the Michigan State series May 2-3.
Her injury moved sophomore Kate Schwartz into the lineup in Holden’s place, but she had a rough weekend, going 1-for-7 with five strikeouts.
But Bernstein-O’Brien denied the injury hurt her team.
“You know, Kate won a ball game for us last weekend (against Michigan State), so I would never say that one player could do it differently or better than another player,” Bernstein-O’Brien said.