Split decision: U sees both sides

by Noah Seligman

Game one of a doubleheader against Illinois did not start the way Minnesota’s softball team had planned Sunday.

The Gophers (32-21, 9-9 Big Ten) were victimized by the mercy rule and the bats of the Illini losing by a count of 8-0 in five innings.

In Big Ten softball, if a team is winning by eight runs or more after five innings the game is over.

“To beat us 8-0 you have to put together a good ballgame,” co-coach Julie Standering said. “It’s not often we get shut down in five innings.

Illinois scored seven of its eight runs with two outs, including three in the top of the first. The Illini added one run in the second and four in the fifth.

The loss did not sit well with the Gophers and senior Piper Marten.

The Farmington, N.M., native lasted only 1 1/3 allowing four hits and four runs (three earned) absorbing the loss in game one.

“It pissed me off,” Marten said. “When you get eight-run ruled you don’t like the feel of that. They were dancing out here thinking they were going to beat us again.”

Marten made sure that didn’t happen, going the distance in game two. She allowed three hits and one earned run while striking out eight to lead the Gophers to a 3-1 win and moving her record to 20-11 on the season.

Illinois scored first, breaking through in the bottom of the fourth. Illini first baseman Jenna Hall hit an RBI double to left field to open the scoring. A walk loaded the bases with no outs.

Illinois had a one-run lead and was threatening for more. That’s when the defense helped bail out Marten.

Minnesota third basemen Tonya Mitchell snagged a line drive off the bat of Erin Montgomery. Mitchell then doubled up Illinois’ Erin Jones at third.

“That was a huge play,” Standering said. “That was a momentum-changer.”

A groundout to second baseman Valerie Alston ended the inning.

Alston then led off the top of the fifth with a walk. After a sacrifice bunt moved pinch runner Christina Zimmerman to second, Lindsey Erickson roped a triple down the right field line to tie the score. Rene Konderik followed up with a single to right field to give the Gophers the lead for good.

Konderik said the Gophers worked on moving back in the batters back to cut down the strike zone.

“We were going to come back out and fight,” she said. “We weren’t going to let them beat us again.”

Megan Higginbotham hit her fourth home run of the season in the sixth inning – a solo shot to left center – to give Marten an insurance run.

Marten pitched her fifth career no-hitter Friday, shutting down Iowa in a 2-0 win for Minnesota.

The Hawkeyes came back and won 6-2 on Saturday to salvage a split.

Junior Lyn Peyer took the loss for Minnesota allowing six hits and five runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings of work.

“Iowa was pumped up for revenge,” Erickson said. “They’re the type of team that will stay up if they get up.”‘

Erickson led the Gophers offensively this weekend going 5-for-9 with two runs scored and two RBIs in the four games.

Minnesota said it was satisfied to win two out of four against the second- and third-place teams in the conference.

But the Gophers said they were disappointed they did not play four solid games.

“We weren’t consistent with all the games,” Marten said. “Consistency is more important than anything.”