Gophers looking ahead to matchup

by Mark Heller

There was an almost tangible sense of excitement surrounding the Gophers softball team following a two-game sweep of Drake on Wednesday at the Bierman Softball Stadium.
It had nothing to do with what the Gophers accomplished on the field — winning twice by identical 2-1 scores — and everything to do with this weekend’s pivotal series against Michigan in Ann Arbor.
The sixth-ranked Wolverines swept Purdue on Wednesday, 2-0 and 3-2 in 11 innings. Michigan is atop the Big Ten at 5-0 in the conference and 32-5-1 overall, including 28 straight games without a loss.
But the Gophers still feel good about their chances, largely because of the graduation of Wolverines three-time All-American pitcher Sara Griffin. Without Griffin in the lineup, Michigan hasn’t been quite as dominant this season as the team that won the 1998 Big Ten champions.
“If we want to get our goal of winning the Big Ten we need to go down there and win a couple of games,” Gophers senior pitcher Steph Klaviter said. “They are a good team, so it’s not like we’re going to kill them. Our goal is to win a couple of games.”
This could be the year Minnesota finally does just that. But Michigan leads the overall series against Minnesota 46-19, including the past 11 meetings and 29 of the last 30.
Minnesota co-coach Lisa Bernstein knows the Gophers have their work cut out for them if they expect to go into Michigan and win for the first time since 1990.
“We need to hit the ball, pick up the ball and throw it and also do it on the mound,” Bernstein said. “This is a whole new team and we always play them tough and consistent. I’m excited to put these ’99 Gophers up against the Wolverines.”
But a realistic chance of beating the mighty Wolverines has Minnesota hungry for an upset.
“We need to take care of the ball on defense,” Klaviter said. “They’re not going to score a lot, we’re not going to score a lot. We know that already — it’s just two good ball teams playing against each other.”