Minnesota’s softball team returned from its final road trip in Illinois trying to heal after a rough fight through the weekend.
The wounds were slightly mended at Northwestern with 1-0 and 3-1 wins after 3-2 and 12-1 losses at the hands of Illinois.
Going into the weekend, the Gophers’ plan was to capitalize on opponents’ errors, perform well on the road and stick together as a team.
The outcome against the Wildcats on Sunday closely followed the agenda.
Piper Marten pitched both games in the doubleheader, her second and third games of the weekend, giving up only one run. She pitched her eighth complete game shutout on the season in game one and advanced her record to 17-9.
“We’re utilizing our pitching staff efficiently,” co-head coach Julie Standering said. “Piper felt good so we went with her back to back. It’s pitch by committee.”
Though the Wildcats tried to come back later in both games, second inning leads held up for the Gophers.
In game one, Marten was backed up by solid defense to help her out when the bases were loaded in the fifth. She hit a batter in the sixth, and threw a wild pitch in the seventh, but was again bailed out by her teammates.
Game two’s defense was showcased by two double plays, one in the fifth and one in the sixth, both grounders to Jordanne Nygren at third base.
The wins against Northwestern were hard-fought, but the Gophers overcame a challenge they’ve faced all season – playing well Sundays.
However, it was a 50-50 weekend on the road for Minnesota. Normally able to play well on Fridays and Saturdays, Illinois posed a challenge for the beginning of the weekend.
The Gophers were unable to hold onto their two-run lead or capitalize on an Illini error Friday.
Back-to-back first-inning home runs from Hailee Nanchy and Anne Thul were the only run-producing hits for Minnesota.
“We got ahead early in the game,” Thul said. “We just have to be able to finish it.”
A come from behind win for the Illini extended their winning streak to eight games.
In Saturday’s contest, an eight-run first inning from Illinois destroyed the Gophers’ chances at the win from the start.
Angie Recknor started in the pitcher’s circle and established a pattern of giving up multiple runs in the first inning as she did against Michigan.
Saturday’s game only went five innings due to the eight-run rule and extended Illinois’ winning streak to nine games.
The Gophers might have to re-evaluate their pitching situation for the remainder of the season with Marten pitching another long weekend and the Recknor-(Lyn) Peyer combination struggling to get wins.
Minnesota has a four day break in games to practice and continue to pull itself together after a less than stellar weekend.
“(This weekend) opened our eyes that we’re going to win as a team and we’re going to lose as a team,” Marten said.
Sam Campanaro covers softball and welcomes comments at [email protected]