Softball team loses Dangerfield complex in regionals

Michael Dougherty

Although it didn’t earn a trip to the Women’s College World Series, the 22nd-ranked Gophers softball team earned some respect from the three West Coast schools it faced in this weekend’s NCAA Tournament in Fresno, Calif.
Many of the 2,000 Fresno State fans who attended Friday’s 2-1 Bulldogs win, along with some of the hometown writers, were ready to dismiss Minnesota as a cupcake.
Gophers head coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien was asked about the West Coast teams’ apparent lack of respect for Midwest teams.
“We’re all pretty sick and tired of hearing about that theory and concept,” she said. “I think we walked in and showed them we can play with anybody in the nation.”
When a reporter from the Fresno Bee called her team “scrappy,” Bernstein-O’Brien cringed and shot back.
“We don’t think we are a scrappy team,” she snapped. “We played tough, aggressive softball all weekend, and that is the only way that this team knows how to play.”
Senior third baseman Amber Hegland also said she felt a lack of respect by the fans and press.
“I thought that they didn’t think we could play at all,” she said. “It seemed like they thought that we shouldn’t have been asked to come.
“The Fresno State fans that were sitting up by my dad were talking after we beat Northridge and saying, Well, I guess it’s going to be Fresno and Cal in another dog fight in the championship game.'”
The Gophers defeated Cal before losing 6-0 in a rematch with Fresno State.
It’s a game of inches, part I
One of the most interesting match-ups from this weekend, had California’s 4-foot-10 third baseman Pauline Duenas facing the Gophers’ 6-foot-4 Steph Klaviter.
Klaviter retired Duenas in their only match-up on a soft liner to second baseman Laura Peters.
But later in the top of the seventh with Minnesota on top 3-0, Duenas hit a Wendy Logue change up down the left field line for a triple. Minnesota held on to win 3-2.
It’s a game of inches, part II
Gophers outfielder Kate Schwartz was three inches from being a hero.
In Friday’s game with the Bulldogs, she came to the plate in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded against All-American Amanda Scott.
The two had a great battle with Schwartz fouling off three pitches, including one that landed about three inches foul that would have at least tied the game.
“We were putting people on the entire game, but we didn’t get the job done,” Bernstein-O’Brien said.
Gophers shortstop Shannon Beeler also found out about the old sports axiom when she came to the plate with Peters on second and Steph Midthun on first in the third inning of the Cal State Northridge match. She lined a pitch from Matadors pitcher Tara Glaister down the left field line that landed three inches foul.
No Holden Gopher
Freshman left fielder Morgan Holden, who had been a key part of the Gophers’ batting order, played only two innings in the tournament because of a wrist injury.
Holden said she thought she was ready to play, but Bernstein-O’Brien obviously felt she wasn’t ready to return to action.
“She’s real sore,” the coach said. “We’re asking a lot of her and her body right now. If she could will it, she would have, but we just had to make sure we didn’t do anything unintelligent with her body.”
Holden broke her wrist diving for a ball against Michigan State on May 3, and she had surgery two days later.
Schwartz took over for Holden, but had a tough time in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, going 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts in seven games, and stranding 15 runners.
In the beginning of the Big Ten season, Bernstein-O’Brien made an important change in the batting order when she moved Holden to third and dropped Beeler to clean-up and Hegland to fifth.
Holden was often able to lay down sacrifice bunts and move the top two hitters into scoring position for Beeler and Hegland.
But when she was absent from the line-up, Beeler’s RBI numbers dropped along with the team’s.
Mooney comes on in the end
Freshman designated player Erin Mooney went 5-for-10 on the weekend with two walks, and was named to the all-tournament team.
Mooney was excited after the team’s two wins Saturday.
“I think when we come out to play we play 100 percent, full throttle,” she said. “I know I can hit the ball, and like the coach said, It’s your job, just hit the ball.'”