Gophers have mixed results out west

Inconsistent offensive production continued this weekend in California.

by Mark Heise

The night-and-day offensive trend of the Minnesota softball team continued last weekend.

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Ohio State
when: Friday, March 30
where: Columbus, Ohio

The Gophers (13-12) split their four-game weekend at the Capital Classic in Sacramento, Calif., topping Idaho State and Pittsburgh on Friday before losing to Colorado State on Saturday and Georgia Southern on Sunday.

Minnesota started off strong against Idaho State (4-21), putting up five runs in the third inning to cruise past the Bengals, 5-1.

Senior shortstop Megan Higginbotham doubled in a pair of runs and the Gophers scored the final three off two Idaho State fielding errors.

Sophomore pitcher Katie Dalen pitched shutout softball for six strong innings before allowing a solo home run in the seventh, but finished the game allowing just one run on three hits while striking out eight.

“Our big goal is to get ahead of hitters, and hit our spots,” Dalen said. “Our job as pitchers is to keep our team in the game and we’re on the right track with that.”

Minnesota’s bats stayed hot against Pittsburgh (16-19) as well.

Senior third baseman Mandy Valdez led the team through a seven-run second inning, belting a solo homer to start the inning and picked up three RBI on a bases-clearing double.

“I think hitting is contagious, because once one person gets a hit, it seems like everyone else will follow,” Valdez said. “(The pitcher) came inside on me, and that’s the one I took out of the park, and then everyone after me hit the ball really well too.”

The Gophers added two runs in the top of the sixth to run away with the 9-1 victory. Senior pitcher Rene Konderik gave up a run on five hits, picking up the win.

But Minnesota’s on-again-off-again run-support failed them in the next game.

Sophomore pitcher Briana Hassett held Colorado State (20-13) in check, allowing just two hits and an unearned run over six innings of work, but the Gophers collected just two hits in the game, ending their five-game win streak.

Minnesota missed an opportunity to score in the fifth, failing to score with runners on second and third with one out and eventually fell 1-0.

In the final game of the tournament, the Gophers’ offense was almost nonexistent as the Gophers scored just one unearned run on six hits over 11 innings.

Dalen started pitching for Minnesota and kept Georgia Southern (11-17) off the scoreboard for five innings, recording nine strikeouts.

Konderik relieved Dalen and gave up a run in the eighth inning, but senior outfielder Katie Meyer tied the game with an RBI single in the bottom half of the inning.

Kondrik held Georgia Southern in check until the 11th inning, giving up a two-run homer. Minnesota couldn’t answer, losing 3-1.

Despite a lack of results, coach Lisa Bernstein said she was happy with how her team played.

“We did a good job of putting the ball in play and hitting it hard,” she said. “They made some nice defensive plays on us, but overall I think we made some big strides forward.”