Gophers take a pair from Bison

Minnesota swept North Dakota State on the strength of two pitchers.

Chris Lempesis

Minnesota softball pitchers Lyn Peyer and Mandy Valadez couldn’t have taken more opposite approaches on the mound Thursday.

Peyer went for strikeouts and Valadez went to the ground. But both also ended up with the same results: wins.

Peyer and Valadez led the way as the Gophers swept North Dakota State at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Minnesota (20-20, 1-7 Big Ten) won 3-2 with Peyer in the first game and 2-1 with Valadez in the second game.

“I think both of them were in complete control of their ballgames,” co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “They kept mixing rotation and hitting their spots, and that was great.”

Peyer got off to a shaky start in game one. The senior allowed a two-run home run to the third batter of the game, Bison left fielder Lynnae Foshag.

North Dakota State (16-19) never reached the scoreboard again, however, as Peyer was solid the rest of the way. She finished the game by retiring 15 of the final 18 batters.

In picking up the victory, which improves her record to 11-12, Peyer went the distance, striking out 11 and walking none.

“I mixed the speeds a lot,” Peyer said. “My off-speed curve and my changeup were really working for me. They were chasing it a lot.”

Valadez kept Peyer’s momentum from game one going in the second contest.

Using her drop ball, the sophomore got 14 of 21 Bison batters out with ground balls, striking out none and walking none in upping her record to 3-4.

Valadez said the fact that her drop ball was working was crucial for her Thursday because the drop ball is one of her most reliable pitches.

While Peyer and Valadez led the Gophers on the mound, sophomore catcher Megan Higginbotham was the difference-maker at the plate.

Higginbotham went 4-for-6 on the night with three RBIs, two of which came on her two-run home run to left-centerfield in game one. The homer, Higginbotham’s third of the year, was the eventual game-winner.

Higginbotham credited some extra batting practice with Bernstein before the games for her performance.

“It’s a great time for her to be feeling hot,” Bernstein said.

Minnesota, as a team, hopes to take the heat from Thursday and translate it into a pair of wins Sunday against Michigan State.