For the first six innings of game two of the Gophers softball team’s home-opening doubleheader Wednesday against Mankato State, Minnesota wasn’t offered much of a welcome home present.
The rain and cold were only part of the story; the Gophers trailed the Mavericks 2-1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning after winning rather routinely, 5-0, in game one.
The rain continued to fall well after the game was over. Minnesota, however, reversed its on-field woes with a two-run rally, capped by Rachel Nelson’s drive into the left-center field gap, to win 3-2 and improve to 23-9 on the season.
Right fielder Renee Sbrocco, who went 3-for-5 in the doubleheader, led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a single to left. Catcher Ann Bartholmey was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. Lara Severson advanced the runners to second and third with a bunt, setting up Nelson’s heroics.
“I was just concentrating on bringing them home,” Nelson said. “I had been going back and forth between slapping the ball and swinging at it. I took a full swing, and it felt good.”
The scenario almost didn’t play out. Upon the 2-2 offering, Nelson took a pitch — called a ball by the umpire — that everyone associated with Mankato State softball thought was a strike.
After the game, Nelson had a shy grin when describing the pitch.
“Yeah, that was a tough one to take. It kind of surprised me,” she said. “But I still think it was inside.”
Even without the borderline pitch, the game was still too close for comfort for Gophers coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien.
She said she would have liked to see Minnesota generate offense earlier but added that the come-from-behind win is a good momentum builder heading into this weekend’s Big Ten home opener against Indiana.
Minnesota shrugged off somewhat of a slow start in the first game by scoring four runs in the final three innings. Nelson provided much of the offense in that game as well, driving in two runs with a pair of hits. She was 5-for-7 with one run scored and 4 RBIs in the doubleheader.
Pitcher Jennifer Johnson dominated game one from the start, allowing just two hits while striking out six hitters in six innings.
GAME ONEMankato State 000 000 0 — 0 4 4Gophers 100 112 x — 5 7 1Stierlen and Hillstrom; Johnson, Logue (7) and Bartholmey. W — Johnson, 5-5. L — Stierlen, 10-4. T — 1:30. A — 265.
GAME TWOMankato State 001 100 0 — 2 6 1Gophers 100 000 2 — 3 8 1
Slater and Hillstrom; Klaviter and Bartholmey. W — Klaviter, 10-3. L — Slater, 4-2. T — 1:35. A — 265.