Despite slow start, Gophers manage to salvage weekend against Hoosiers

Minnesota lost its first two games of the weekend to Big Ten foe Purdue.

Mark Heise

Minnesota softball coach Julie Standering said that timely hitting would be the key to success this weekend, and she was right.

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Three of four games came down to a hit in a key situation, as the Gophers lost a pair of games to Purdue on Friday and Saturday before sweeping Indiana in a doubleheader Sunday.

“We put up some good, hard-fought games,” Standering said of the weekend. “Would we have liked to go 4-0? Of course, but overall we’re happy with what we did this weekend.”

Minnesota (15-16 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) started off strong Friday, getting on the board in the third inning on senior Megan Higginbotham’s solo homerun. The Gophers scored again in the fourth and fifth, going up 3-0 as Higginbotham doubled and came around to score.

Sophomore Briana Hassett kept Purdue off the board until the sixth. Purdue took advantage of an error to put up a pair of runs, cutting the lead to one.

In the seventh the Boilermakers (24-26-1, 4-5) took advantage of a hot shot off the glove of first baseman Lisa Parks, which rolled into the dugout, giving Purdue a runner on second with one out. A two-out single to left center tied the game, sending the game into extra innings.

In the Purdue half of the ninth inning, a pair of two-out walks put the Boilermakers in position for the win, and a single up the middle sent Minnesota to a 4-3 loss.

The Gophers kept up with Purdue over three innings Saturday, but couldn’t cool off the Boilermakers’ hot bats, sending Minnesota to an 11-4 loss.

Down 4-1 in the third, the Gophers tied the game with a pair of towering homeruns to left field. Senior Mandy Valadez homered with sophomore Colleen Conway on base, and Higginbotham hit a solo shot for the second straight game. Purdue would retake the lead in the bottom of the third.

The Gophers headed into the doubleheader in desperate need of a conference win. Indiana (19-21, 1-7) looked to capitalize on Minnesota’s woes and scored three runs on Hassett in the first two innings.

The Gophers fought back, putting up three runs of their own, two coming from senior first baseman Lisa Parks’ pair of RBI hits. Senior Rene Konderik shut down the Hoosiers lineup from the third inning on, only allowing a run in the eighth, on a solo shot to the opposite field, barely curving around the right field pole.

In need of timely hits, Conway started off the bottom of the eighth with a single, reaching third on senior Katie Meyer’s double. With two outs, sophomore Shannon Stemper poked the ball through the right side of the infield, scoring both runners to win 5-4 in dramatic fashion.

“I was looking for something outside,” Stemper said. “We’ve been working on those situations in practice, and I went to the plate confident. We’ve been working hard to close the door on somebody, and we finally got two of those today.”

In the second game, sophomore Katie Dalen held Indiana to just one run, picking up the 3-1 win. Higginbotham was 3-4 with two doubles and two runs scored, while Conway went 2-2 with an RBI.

“We definitely bonded as a team today,” Conway said. “Winning two games in a row in the Big Ten is a big boost, and we’re going to definitely use that confidence and hopefully keep things rolling.”