Offensive woes doom Gophers on road

Minnesota manufactured just four runs during the five-game tournament.

Mark Heise

The hitters on Minnesota’s softball team probably don’t want to see California ever again.

Heading into the Worth Invitational with such high hopes, the Gophers (8-7 overall) came out of the five-game tournament with just four runs and one win.

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Minnesota hitters were shut down game after game, leaving pitching to be the only bright spot for the tournament.

“We had runners on, but we weren’t able to pick up hits in key situations,” coach Lisa Bernstein said. “That’s something we really need to work on.”

The first day was a struggle for the Gophers, beginning with a 1-0 loss to San Diego. Minnesota had just two hits and failed to take advantage of a pair of errors by the Aztecs’ defense. Senior pitcher Rene Konderik allowed only one run over seven innings to keep the Gophers in the game.

San Diego (11-8 overall) scored from second base on a sacrifice bunt in the sixth, using miscommunication by Minnesota’s defense to win the game.

Things only got worse for the Gophers against Cal State Fullerton, as the Titans (12-7) took advantage of four walks in the first inning to put up two runs early.

Cal State added to its lead in the third with a two-run homer to the left-center field gap, and Minnesota managed just one hit while striking out nine times, allowing the Titans to cruise to a 4-0 victory.

Sophomore pitcher Briana Hassett stepped up for the Gophers on Saturday, allowing two hits and striking out 10 on the way to a complete-game shut out against Oklahoma State (11-12 overall).

“Our defense was playing very well this weekend,” Hassett said. “They stepped up when we made mistakes, and played a big part keeping us in games throughout the weekend.”

Minnesota tallied three hits in the 1-0 win over the Cowgirls, scoring its only run in the first as sophomore Colleen Conway walked and scored on a double from senior Megan Higginbotham.

The Gophers would have liked to start a win streak, but No. 7 Oregon State (11-6 overall) ended any thoughts of that early.

The Beavers put up four runs in the first inning and three more in the third, putting the game out of reach.

Minnesota held the Beavers scoreless after the third, but the Gophers couldn’t find their offense. Senior Mandy Valadez collected two of the team’s three hits as Minnesota was shutout for the third time in four games.

In an effort to end their offensive drought, the Gophers put up a pair of runs right away against eighth-ranked Stanford, stealing home twice against the Cardinals.

But Stanford (16-5 overall) retaliated in the bottom of the first, putting up five runs before Minnesota could record an out. Hassett came in to put out the fire, and finished the game with six innings pitched and just one run allowed.

The Gophers scored again in the fifth when Higginbotham singled and was driven home on senior Lisa Parks’ double. Minnesota stranded Parks however, and failed to cut any further into the lead, and the Gophers lost 6-3 in their final game of the weekend.

Despite losing four of five games played, Valadez still found plenty of positive things Minnesota can take away from the weekend.

“There are loads of positives,” she said. “We were playing top-ranked teams, and we were able to hit some balls hard off of them. This was a learning experience for us, and I think we’ll take a lot away from it.”