Minnesota hopes to knock out overmatched foe

The Gophers took care of Wisconsin-Green Bay 7-0 in a previous twin bill.

Mark Heise

There is no doubt the Minnesota softball team is working for the weekend.

Despite a doubleheader at 4 p.m. today at home against Wisconsin-Green Bay, the Gophers’ focus for the week will be on the Friday-Saturday matchup against the University of Wisconsin, a series that could either vault them into the conference tournament or send them home early.

“Right now we’re focused on this doubleheader, but as soon as this is over, it’s all about this weekend,” senior outfielder Casey Wheeler said. “That’s what matters the most right now.”

By outscoring the Phoenix 7-0 on the road in April, Minnesota is favored to win in similar fashion this time around.

But Wheeler said the Gophers (21-21 overall, 3-8 Big Ten) aren’t just looking to win, and she looked at the matchup as another chance to see game situations before the weekend.

“It’s a good experience to have before we play Wisconsin,” she said. “We’re going to get more than just regular practice; we’re going to get to see some game situations. I think that will help us going into the Wisconsin series.”

On the season, UW-Green Bay’s offense has been bested by its opponents in every category except for doubles and the number of players hit by a pitch.

The team has homered just seven times all season, one less than Gophers’ senior first baseman Lisa Parks.

The Phoenix (14-19, 6-7 Horizon) have also lost all 13 games when scoring less than three runs this year, showing a weakness in their pitching staff.

Minnesota gave up just seven hits over 14 innings against UW-Green Bay in the last meeting, and the Phoenix failed to score.

With that success, senior pitcher Rene Konderik expressed confidence for the doubleheader.

“We just have to come in and close the door right away,” she said. “Don’t let them in at all, get the job down and focus toward the weekend. Hopefully we can build some momentum for ourselves.”

The Gophers’ slow start to 2007 may have suggested another tough season, but heading into the last week of play, Minnesota has definitely shown improvement from last year’s awful record.

“Our defense has been getting better, our offense is stronger than last year and our pitching is more mature,” coach Lisa Parks said. “With all of the changes that we’ve seen from last year to now, I can’t help but be impressed with the improvements we have shown.”

Konderik said she noticed improvements as well, noting a better team atmosphere.

“I think our team chemistry is really strong this year,” she said. “Everybody is so close and we’re on the same page, and it’s helped us to focus on our goals this season.”