Brophy catching on at vacated position

by Michael Dougherty

Like Babe Dahlgren, Gophers catcher Erin Brophy has assumed the unenviable position of replacing a mainstay.
Dahlgren was the first baseman for the New York Yankees who replaced Lou Gehrig in 1939 after the “Iron Horse” had played in 2,130 straight games.
Brophy, meanwhile, has stepped into the catcher’s spot on the 21st-ranked Gophers softball team, replacing Ann Bartholmey.
Bartholmey started every game Minnesota played during her four years — all 235 — leaving head coach Lisa Bernstein-O’Brien with a new problem.
The coach looked to Brophy to take over behind the plate, and the junior from Crystal, Minn., said stepping in for Bartholmey has been tough.
“For anybody it would be hard because she started every game,” Brophy said. “She was one of the greatest defensive catchers in the nation, so of course it has been hard to fill her shoes.”
Although Brophy said she is growing increasingly confident, she said she needs to work on blocking pitches in the dirt and throwing out runners.
While she has a ways to go to reach the defensive prowess of Bartholmey, Brophy has provided a more productive punch with the bat.
“I’m much more comfortable hitting than I am catching,” she said.
And the numbers back that up. Bartholmey hit only .265 last season, with 13 RBIs one home run and five doubles in 56 games.
Brophy, meanwhile, has been ripping the ball with a .295 average, 33 RBIs, five homers and 13 doubles in 51 games.
“It’s a little strange seeing someone else back there,” Bartholmey said. “She’s doing a great job. She’s really hitting the ball well, which is something I didn’t do. She’s a much better hitter than I am.”
Even though Bartholmey said Brophy is playing well behind the plate, Brophy has had some occasional lapses in the field that have forced her to make up for them at the plate.
On Wednesday, she made a crucial throwing error in the bottom of the fifth that allowed the go-ahead run to come in against Northern Iowa.
But in the top of the seventh she lined a double to center field, driving in the tying run and forcing extra innings. The Gophers won the game with two runs in the top of the eighth.
“It was my only hit of the game,” Brophy said. “I just went up there and I was like, Forget about the throwing error, forget that I struck out in the other game twice, and try to hit like you know how to hit.'”
Brophy claims to occasionally experience some sort of mystical feeling before she delivers a big hit, although she said it is not comparable to Reggie White’s proclaimed hotline with God.
“Sometimes I can feel when I’m going to get a hit like that, and I felt it then,” she said.
The Gophers would like to see her get that special feeling more often. Minnesota has been in a swoon of late, losing seven of its last 11 after winning 19 out of 20.
“Our hitting isn’t like it was at the beginning of the year,” Brophy said. “We were in double digits for hits in every game.”
However, she said she thinks the team has emerged from its slump and is ready to make a push for the Big Ten tournament.
In order to make that push a success, Brophy has to continue to work with the Gophers’ two starting pitchers, Wendy Logue and Steph Klaviter, because adapting to a new catcher is often hard for hurlers. Klaviter said she feels Brophy has made the adjustment easy for all parties involved.
“Of course Ann had a lot more experience,” she said. “But as the year goes on, Brophy is getting a lot more experience and she has really stepped it up at her position.”
Klaviter, who is 12-9 on the season, said there is a big difference between throwing to Bartholmey and Brophy, because Brophy and Klaviter came into the program at the same time.
“Brophy has a lot more attitude with me personally,” Klaviter said. “There’s many times when I’ll throw the ball into the dirt and she’ll give me the look — If you throw it there again I’ll kill you.'”
Brophy said she does that to keep Klaviter loose, so she’ll come back with a strike, and she claims it usually works. Something must be working right, as Logue is 16-5 and had a 13-game winning streak earlier this season.
But the Gophers’ tournament hopes are just as dependent on Brophy’s bat as they are on her battery-mates. Minnesota, which has eight Big Ten games remaining, is a half game behind Northwestern and Michigan State for the fourth and final spot in the Big Ten tournament.
“I’m hoping that this offensive attack we’re having will lead us through those last Big Ten games,” Brophy said.