Minnesota’s offense is scoring its way to success

The Gophers have scored 21 runs in their first three games of the season.

Utility player Katelyn Kemmetmueller swings during the game against South Dakota on Apr. 4, 2017.

Ellen Schmidt

Utility player Katelyn Kemmetmueller swings during the game against South Dakota on Apr. 4, 2017.

Erik Nelson

Though an all-around game is important, teams can’t win games without scoring runs.

Minnesota hasn’t had any problem with scoring so far this season. The Gophers have scored 21 times in three games for an average of seven per game. Part of that success has come from situational hitting.

Head coach Jamie Trachsel said she wants Minnesota to analyze each pitch.

“In situational hitting, where sometimes you’re hitting behind the runner, you’re trying to get the ball to the grass,” Trachsel said. “The ball off the bat is the byproduct of your swing, so wherever that ball ends up going is an approach thing.”

First baseman Hope Brandner leads the Gophers offensively with two home runs and seven RBIs. Brandner drove in five runs in the Gophers’ 13-0 victory over North Florida on Friday. Brandner is in her first season with Minnesota after playing the 2018 season with Oregon State.

Brandner said that while she hasn’t had any issues with hitting this season, it’s difficult to hit a softball at top speed.

“You’re trying to hit a round ball with a stick,” Brandner said. “It’s something that I’ve practiced a lot at. When I was younger, I had a batting cage in my backyard. It’s something that I always enjoyed doing with my dad. Practicing with my dad every night … is something that has helped me be so successful.”

In addition to Brandner, the Gophers can rely on right fielder Maddie Houlihan and third baseman Katelyn Kemmetmueller to drive in runs. Both Houlihan and Kemmetmueller have driven in three runs. 

Pitcher Amber Fiser said its important for Minnesota to strike early on offense to give the pitching staff some cushioning on the road.

“[Scoring early] sets the tone for the rest of the game,” Fiser said. “If we score early, it sets the pace for our game, and we’re excited and confident for the rest of the game.”

In 2018, the Gophers scored 330 runs, averaging 5.69 per game. This year, Minnesota is on track to score more runs than last season, but that will change as the Gophers play more games.

Minnesota is without its top hitter from 2018, Kendyl Lindaman. Lindaman transfered to Florida after two seasons with the Gophers. The Gophers also lost Sydney Dwyer who graduated last spring.

Trachsel said even though the Gophers lost two key offensive players from last season, she thinks multiple players could make up for the lost production.

“It’s going to be tag team in the production and how to manufacture our runs, versus being one dimensional,” Trachsel said. “We want to be nine strong no matter who’s in the lineup, and we have the belief and the confidence in anyone who is in there to do their job.”