The end of another Minnesota softball season means farewell to the seniors.
But for this year’s class — and the team it leaves behind — the farewells will be especially tough to swallow.
Five players will leave the Gophers this year, including All-Americans Shannon Beeler and Steph Midthun, and staff ace Steph Klaviter.
“Five very talented athletes,” Gophers co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “(Klaviter) has won over 80 games, she’s amazing. She keeps us in ballgames and lets the defense play behind her.
“I don’t know what you can’t say about (Beeler). She can hit for power, is aggressive, an excellent defensive player, is a leader and has played through so much pain. Steph Midthun making great catches her whole career and a great lead-off hitter; over 200 hits in her career. There’s Lara Severson and Erin Brophy, too — just a bunch of very talented players.”
Minnesota might never see the likes of Klaviter, Beeler and Midthun at the same time again. That prospect might have made last weekend’s losses in the NCAA regional tournament that much worse. But they do have plenty of accomplishments on which to hang their batting helmets.
“Winning (the Big Ten tournament) was definitely something I’ll take with me forever,” Brophy said. “I will always have (a ring) on my finger to remind me of it. That’s the one thing all five of us said our freshmen year: We want a ring when we’re done, and that’s what we got.”
The Big Ten championship was a unanimous highlight among the players, especially the seniors. For many, it was the way they won — beating No. 6 Michigan twice in the same day on the Wolverines’ home field.
This senior class also received NCAA regional invitations in three of the four years they played, a feat no other Minnesota class has come close to accomplishing.
But not all the underclassmen will remember these five players for their on-field abilities alone. To freshman Jordanne Nygren, their personalities will linger long after the seniors are gone.
“They’re all so different — from Beeler who’s very intense to Brophy who plays around with you. That’s what’s best about them, how someone could get you going and someone could get you going in a different way on the other side, too,” Nygren said.
They may have had wide-ranging personalities, but these five seniors meshed together from the start on and off the field, and the bonds only grew stronger as their careers went on.
“We were airtight,” Brophy said. “We didn’t go anywhere without each other. It’s cool that all five of us came in together and all five of us are leaving together. Not a lot of classes get to do that.”
But not a lot of classes accomplished what this one did, nor will many in the future.