Conway leading Minnesota at the plate

Her .441 batting average and .493 on-base percentage are tops on the team.

Mark Heise

There isn’t much room for improvement as the Minnesota softball team takes its 10-game winning streak on the road this weekend.

The Gophers, who have given up just one run over the last nine games, will have a chance to extend their streak as they head to Georgia Tech for the Buzz Classic this weekend.

Minnesota will play five games, facing Western Michigan and Mercer on Friday and Elon and Georgia Tech on Saturday, with the final opponent Sunday to be determined.

And while it would be nice to keep the streak going, junior Colleen Conway said there are more important things to focus on.

“We’re looking for consistency and more at-bats,” Conway said. “It’s still early in the season, so a goal is still to try and get everyone comfortable in their positions.”

When it comes to comfort in a position, Conway would likely know what she is talking about.

The third baseman was a starting shortstop her freshman year and a starting second baseman last season, but the position changes don’t seem to bother the infielder.

“I’m really comfortable doing it,” she said. “I actually think it’s kind of cool, and it makes me more versatile. The only real difference is that the ball comes off the bat a lot harder; you have to have good reflexes to make sure your face doesn’t get taken off.”

Conway has transitioned to third smoothly this season, committing just one error in 21 games, while becoming a real force at the plate, as well. She’s hitting a team-leading .441 in the leadoff spot, with an on-base percentage of .493.

Coach Lisa Bernstein said Conway’s contributions this season have been significant.

“She’s very consistent and mature. She can handle whatever we ask her to do,” Bernstein said. “Conway is definitely a team player and she’s a good leader to have.”

With three positions down and a year to go, the question is: Will Conway move over to first base next year, completing the cycle?

“She has it in her, I swear she does,” senior outfielder Colleen Powers said. “I don’t think it will happen, but it would be fun to see.”

Another key to success for the Gophers this weekend, aside from continued production from Conway, will again be pitching, which hasn’t been a problem in recent weeks.

Junior pitcher Briana Hassett won the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week award for the second consecutive week last week, and junior Katie Dalen has been right on her tail with impressive outings, as well.

But Hassett’s presence has extended beyond the playing field, Bernstein said.

“What impresses me more than the awards is how Briana is giving to the team between innings,” she said. “The award is great, and that’s what the public sees, but we get to see and benefit from everything behind the scenes.”

Minnesota will need that boost this weekend, as Georgia Tech could prove to be a challenge, with six hitters batting .250 or better and two pitchers with an ERA below 3.00. The Yellow Jackets have plenty of speed on the base paths as well, stealing 35 bases in 39 attempts.

Despite Minnesota not having one or two clear offensive go-to players to counter Georgia Tech, Powers said the team still wasn’t worried about the challenge.

“We’re just sticking with our theme of the year, having a different hero every game,” Powers said. “We don’t know where it will come from, but nine out of 10 times, someone will step up.”