Minn. opens year with mixed results

The Gophers hosted the Metrodome Softball Classic and went 3-3 this weekend.

Minnesota’s Lacey Middlebrooks pitches against Arkansas on Saturday at the Metrodome Softball Classic. The Gophers softball team beat Arkansas 4-1.

Joe Michaud-Scorza

Minnesota’s Lacey Middlebrooks pitches against Arkansas on Saturday at the Metrodome Softball Classic. The Gophers softball team beat Arkansas 4-1.

Marco LaNave

The Minnesota softball team kicked off its 2010 season this weekend by hosting the Metrodome Softball Classic with Western Illinois, Arkansas, Drake, Iowa and Iowa State visiting. The Gophers started the season with some mixed results and finished the weekend 3-3, with wins over Western Illinois, Iowa State and Arkansas. While the season is young, the excitement is apparent when listening to Minnesota junior first baseman Malisa Barnes talk about the outlook for the team this spring. One year after Barnes essentially carried the team offensively, she was glad to have less on her shoulders, as other hitters helped carry the team this weekend. âÄúItâÄôs a huge relief just to have somebody behind you that you can rely on,âÄù Barnes said. Barnes led the Gophers with a .333 batting average, five home runs and 26 RBIs last season, but no teammate hit more than .280 or had more than 17 RBIs. It took only two extra-inning wins in the first three games for the younger Gophers to show they can share the offensive load. In her first collegiate game, freshman third baseman Alex Davis went 2-for-3 and drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 2-1 win against Western Illinois on Thursday afternoon. Davis was moved to the No. 4 spot in the lineup âÄî right behind Barnes âÄî for FridayâÄôs doubleheader. She quickly showed she belonged, hitting a two-run home run in the first inning to give Minnesota an early 3-0 lead against Iowa State. The Cyclones took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the seventh, but Davis led off with a game-tying homer to left-center field that sent it to extra innings. âÄúI usually donâÄôt try and hit home runs, just base hits to help [my team],âÄù Davis said. âÄúI was a little nervous coming in [this weekend], but now itâÄôs the same game [to me], just faster.âÄù Minnesota won its second walk-off in its first three games when sophomore Dannie Skrove, who robbed a home run with a seventh-inning catch in center field, hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored junior pinch runner Aubrey Davis (no relation to Alex) from third in a 6-5 victory. Freshman pitcher Lacey Middlebrooks pitched all eight innings in both of the Gophers wins. Freshman leadoff hitter Allie Siu had a team-leading three hits and scored a run against Iowa State. FridayâÄôs win may have been sweet, but the Cyclones exacted revenge Sunday, besting the Gophers, 6-5. Co-head coach Lisa Bernstein said she thinks the lineup will be stronger this season after the Gophers hit just .220 as a team in 2009. They finished 23-32 last season; the programâÄôs third losing campaign in the past 14 years. âÄúCome-from-behind wins âĦ are always exciting, but youâÄôd want to take care of it a little earlier in the ballgame,âÄù Bernstein said.