Pitchers extend post-season for Gophers softball team

by Michael Dougherty

FRESNO, Calif. — The Gophers softball team knew at the beginning of the season that its pitching staff would be the key to this season.
What head coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien did not know was that her two big guns, junior Steph Klaviter and senior Wendy Logue, would combined to form such a formidable duo.
The two starters, along with freshman reliever Rayny Camacho, were the driving force behind Minnesota tying a team record (1991) for victories in a season. After losing Sunday to third-ranked Fresno State in the NCAA tournament finale, 6-0, the Gophers finished the season at 48-21.
“We have a pitching staff by committee,” Bernstein-O’Brien said. “If something would happen to Steph, Wendy or Rayny could come in and take over.”
Logue started the season 1-2 but rattled off a 13-game winning streak thanks to some good off-speed pitches and some great movement on her screwball. Klaviter, meanwhile, was pitching some solid innings, but her record was 11-9 after the Penn State series in mid-April. In those nine losses, Minnesota scored only 23 runs; in her 11 wins, they scored 77.
But when the season was on the line, Klaviter was the one Bernstein-O’Brien gave the ball to. She finished the season 20-13, the fifth time the Gophers have had a 20-game winner, and the second time Klaviter has done it. When Bernstein-O’Brien needed a big performance, she would look to the “Big Dog.”
“Our freshman year, we each kind of got nicknamed, and ‘Big Dog’ just happened to be my name, probably because of my size,” Klaviter said.
At 6-foot-4, she is quite an intimidating presence on the mound. Cal State-Northridge coach Janet Sherman said that’s a big advantage, especially after Klaviter limited her team to three hits in the Gophers’ 4-0 win over the Matadors on Saturday.
“She’s an imposing pitcher,” Sherman said. “She just kept jamming us. We’ve seen better stuff, but today she was unbeatable.”
Klaviter pitched 67 of the last 87 innings for Minnesota, leaving Logue in the unfamiliar position of sitting on the bench. But Logue said she has been happy to see her pitching partner so well.
“I’ve been ready to go, but Klav’s been throwing good,” Logue said. “I know when it’s time for me to go in there, I’ve got to do the job.”
After giving up two unearned runs in Friday’s opening loss to Fresno State and throwing a three-hit shutout at Cal-State, Klaviter came back to start the California game. However, her arm finally began to tire, and Logue had to come in to relieve her.
“Steph started to hang some pitches,” Bernstein-O’Brien said. “I thought Wendy was fresh, but actually she wasn’t because she had been warming up for two days.”
Even though the coach joked about Logue’s stamina, the pitcher came in and shut down California for 4 1/3 innings as Minnesota continued its season, at least for one more game.
But on Sunday the potent Bulldogs were too much. Their lineup got to Klaviter early, knocking her out after 1 1/3 innings. Klaviter said the Bulldogs weren’t hitting her low pitches Friday night, when they beat the Gophers 2-1. But they made the right adjustments, which led to the win that put them in next week’s College World Series.
After it was clear to Bernstein-O’Brien that Klaviter no longer had her best stuff, Logue entered the game in relief. But the Bulldogs jumped on her for six hits and three runs in 2 2/3 innings, ending the senior’s Minnesota career.
It was a tough end for both pitchers. But while their season fell short of the World Series, it likely would have concluded much earlier without them.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve done here, and I’m proud to be a Gopher,” Logue said while fighting back tears.