Gophers’ losing streak reaches 7

Minnesota pitchers struggled to slow the Northwestern bats Wednesday.

Gophers’ losing streak reaches 7

Marco LaNave

After spending a week in preparation for a weekend series against third-ranked Michigan, the Gophers softball teamâÄôs quick preparation and lineup juggling only led to similar results in a midweek series. Minnesota was nearly swept in two five-inning games again but instead lost a pair of lopsided contests âÄî 10-1 and 9-3 âÄî to Northwestern in a doubleheader in Evanston, Ill. on Wednesday. âÄúIt can be difficult âĦ we really had just one day to be prepared,âÄù said junior second baseman Natalie Neal, who made just her third start of the season in the second game. Wildcats first baseman Adrienne Monka hit two home runs and had five RBIs to lead NorthwesternâÄôs offense, which did most of the damage in pushing the Gophers (15-27, 1-7 Big Ten) to a season-long seven-game losing streak. âÄúSheâÄôs just a big, strong girl that can pound it,âÄù Gophers co-head coach Lisa Bernstein said. âÄúYou canâÄôt dodge a whole lot of bullets in that lineup.âÄù The Wildcats (18-16, 4-3) scored 18 of their 19 total runs in two big innings in each game. âÄúWeâÄôve been having a couple of those big innings [against us] every now and then,âÄù Neal said. Game 1: Northwestern 10, Minnesota 1 Monka and catcher Emily Haug each had a home run and three RBIs for Northwestern in a five-inning victory. Wildcats pitcher Lauren Delaney (9-11) held Minnesota to five hits and a second-inning run that scored on an error. Gophers freshman Lacey Middlebrooks (15-14) couldnâÄôt stop the bleeding in NorthwesternâÄôs five-run third inning and lost her fourth-straight start. Her own wild pitches allowed the fourth and fifth runs of the inning to score. âÄúSheâÄôs a little bit banged up right now. We had to make that move (take out Middlebrooks) when we did,âÄù said Bernstein, who added that MiddlebrooksâÄô status for this weekendâÄôs series against Indiana would âÄúbe determined once we get back in town and we get things evaluated.âÄù Sophomore Alissa Koch got the final out of the third but allowed five runs in the fourth on the home runs by Monka and Haug. Needing two runs in the fifth to avoid the eight-run mercy rule, the Gophers loaded the bases with two outs. Koch came up for just her third at-bat of the season and grounded into a fielderâÄôs choice to end the game. Gophers junior first baseman Malisa Barnes had two of her teamâÄôs five hits. Game 2: Northwestern 9, Minnesota 3 Northwestern had a pair of four-run innings against Koch, who fell to 0-13 this season. The Wildcats loaded the bases in the first inning with two walks and an error. Designated player Michelle Batts hit a two-run double and two subsequent sacrifice flies gave Northwestern a 4-0 lead. Koch also walked the first two batters in the bottom of the fourth and threw a wild pitch that scored a run before the inningâÄôs first hit. Another run scored on an error, and MonkaâÄôs second two-run home run of the day made it 8-0. Northwestern was an out away from victory in the fifth until Gophers sophomore Whitney Erickson had a pinch-hit, two-run double. Sophomore center fielder Dannie Skrove completed a three-hit day with a solo home run in the seventh inning.