Nygren helps U to split with Iowa

Mark Heller

The ingredients were in place for Minnesota softball’s Jordanne Nygren on Wednesday against Iowa: A strong wind blowing out and plenty of Gophers on base.
And Nygren served up something sweet.
The freshman second baseman was a one-woman show, single-handedly assuring Minnesota (40-18 overall, 13-8 in the Big Ten) a split with the Hawkeyes (38-23-1, 12-9) in a doubleheader at the Bierman Softball Stadium.
“We didn’t play a complete game,” Gophers co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “And if you don’t in this conference, you’re going to get beat. We didn’t take care of the ball, and our intensity wavered the whole day.”
After a 45-minute weather delay to start the game, Nygren and the Gophers had something cooking early.
Minnesota starter Steph Klaviter pitched out of a first-inning jam, thanks in part to Nygren throwing out a runner at home on a questionable call. In the bottom of the first, Steph Midthun led off with a single, and Tammi Hays reached on an error. Midthun was thrown out at third on a double-steal.
With Hays moving from first to second on the steal, Shannon Beeler was intentionally walked to set up the force play. Angel Braden struck out, but Nygren smacked her 13th home run of the season to center for a quick 3-0 lead.
“The pitch was on the outside part of the plate,” Nygren said. “(Bernstein) always stresses going with the pitch. She said it probably went 260 feet, so I don’t know if the wind helped that one over.”
Iowa came back in the top of the third. Shawnte Vallejo and Tammy Utley both hit RBI singles, and Morgan Holden’s throw from right field got away from catcher Erin Brophy, scoring another run.
Michelle Harrison relieved Klaviter and got two quick outs. But a passed ball and a throwing error by Brophy allowed another run to score for a 4-3 Hawkeyes’ lead.
Iowa added another run in the top of the fifth for a 5-3 lead, but Minnesota came back with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Midthun tripled, pinch hitter Erin Mooney walked and Beeler hit an RBI single to score Midthun. A single by Braden loaded the bases, and Nygren grounded a single into left to score Mooney and Beeler for a 6-5 win.
Harrison pitched three-plus innings of relief in the win. She is now 8-7 on the season. Klaviter returned and threw the last two innings for her third save.
“We’re all ready at any given point,” Harrison said, referring to the pitching staff. “It was tough throwing into the wind. I just went by the seat of our pants.”
Klaviter started the second game as well and gave up a two-run home run to Vallejo in the bottom of the first.
But Minnesota tied the game at two on another home run by Nygren, her 14th of the season, tying Beeler for the Minnesota single-season home run record set last season.
“The second one was a straight-liner,” Nygren said. “That was awesome.”
But Klaviter gave up a home run to Kristi Hanks in the bottom of the sixth, and a perfect squeeze play scored another run to give Iowa a 4-2 win.
Hanks (16-9) won the game in relief for the Hawkeyes. Klaviter took the loss, dropping to 18-9.
The split means Minnesota now trails idle second-place Michigan State by percentage points and is tied with Penn State for the third seed. The Gophers remain a game ahead of the Hawkeyes.
Minnesota will conclude the regular season this weekend against Ohio State (19-29, 5-16) at Bierman Softball Stadium.
“Every component wasn’t there for the whole day,” Harrison said. “We need to pull it all together for the entire time.”