Midthun, Hays set pace for U softball team

by Mark Heller

The Minnesota softball team usually scores runs when senior Steph Midthun and freshman Tammi Hays get on base. And when those two don’t get on base, the Gophers don’t score.
But Minnesota partially defied this theory against Penn State this weekend.
In Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of the Nittany Lions, Midthun and Hays — the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters in the lineup — combined to go 0-for-6 in the first game. The Gophers scored one only run, but it was enough to win.
Midthun and Hays then combined to go 6-for-9 in the second game, and Minnesota won 6-3.
But on Sunday, the top of the lineup went 1-for-6 with a walk. The Gophers offense struggled again and lost 3-1.
“Nine times out of 10 if Steph and I get on, (Shannon) Beeler and (Jordanne) Nygren are going to hit us in,” Hays said. “It’s tough when we don’t get on, and that has a lot to do with it.”
Midthun and Hays are both left-handed slap-hitters. They rely on hitting the ball on the ground to the left side of the field, or bunting and using their speed to beat the throws.
Midthun used her speed twice this weekend, stealing two bases in the second game on Saturday. She now has 67 career stolen bases, moving her up to second in Minnesota history.
“I was not aware of it at all,” Midthun said. “It’s an honor and everything like that. But to me, those kind of things are secondary to winning.”
This weekend’s peak-and-valley performance by Midthun and Hays is not normal for the steady-hitting duo. Hays is currently hitting .310 and Midthun is at .357. Both are tied for second on the team in runs scored with 32, two behind Beeler.
Midthun and Hays generally set the pace for the team’s offensive production, making the first couple of innings critical to the team’s success.
On Sunday, Penn State got out to a quick 1-0 lead early in the game and made it 2-0 after the top of the fifth. But in the second game on Saturday, the Gophers were ahead 3-0 after the first inning, starting with a bunt hit by Hays.
“If I can walk up there and get on base in that first inning,” Midthun said, “everybody is like, ‘Yeah we’re on this pitcher and we’re going to hit her.'”