Sweep sends Minn. to 11th straight loss

The Gophers lost a close first game, but Ohio State proved to be much too strong in Game 2.

Sweep sends Minn. to 11th straight loss

Marco LaNave

For the second straight weekend, the Gophers softball team struggled to find offense in a tight first game and then failed to out-slug their opponent in a rematch. The result was another two-game sweep, 2-1 and 13-5, at No. 23 Ohio State, extending MinnesotaâÄôs losing streak to 11 games. But in many areas the Gophers felt they improved. âÄúWe played phenomenal defense; we hit the ball throughout the lineup, stole a bunch of bases,âÄù said co-head coach Lisa Bernstein, whose team committed just one error in the series. âÄúThere really wasnâÄôt a part of the game that we did not perform well in.âÄù Sophomore pitcher Alissa Koch battled through rain delays to pitch two complete games for the second straight weekend but fell to 0-17. She lost a tight battle with Ohio State freshman Melanie Nichols in the first game and then was hurt by the BuckeyesâÄô big offensive innings in the second game. âÄúAlissa pitched a very good weekend,âÄù said senior left fielder Heidi Carls, who had a hit in each game. âÄúThe first game, Alissa kept them on their heels a little bit, kept them off-balance, we were making great plays âĦ In the second game âĦ everybody was getting hits âĦ We were playing on each otherâÄôs level in each game, I feel.âÄù Buckeyes catcher Sam Marder had two home runs and five RBIs in the series, and Buckeyes center fielder Dee Dee Hillman led all players with five hits in the two games. The Gophers (15-31, 1-11 Big Ten) are on their longest losing streak since dropping 12 straight games in a span that included the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Their current streak is their longest in a single season since a 12-game slide in 1994. Game 1: Ohio State 2, Minnesota 1 Koch and Nichols each allowed only five hits, but the latter prevailed by allowing just one Minnesota batter to reach base in the final four innings. Rain suspended play after four innings Saturday and the teams played the final three innings Sunday morning. âÄúItâÄôs not ideal for us at all, but [Koch] hung in there and she pitched with heart and intensity and really led her team,âÄù Bernstein said. Nichols struck out seven and walked none to improve to 16-2, while Koch allowed just three walks and struck out two in her third one-run loss of the season. Marder led off the second inning with her 15th home run of the season. The next batter, designated player Courtney Pruner, walked and came around to score on an RBI single by third baseman Megan Coletta. Gophers freshman catcher Kari Dorle and senior right fielder Abby Rehberger had a double and single, respectively to produce a third-inning run. After RehbergerâÄôs RBI single, Nichols retired nine consecutive Gophers before sophomore second baseman Sammie HowardâÄôs one-out single in the sixth. Howard was left at second base as the potential tying run when freshman shortstop Alex Davis grounded out to end the inning. Koch had a stretch of seven consecutive outs and didnâÄôt allow a runner into scoring position after the third inning, but the Gophers only managed one base runner in that time. Game 2: Ohio State 13, Minnesota 5 Trailing the entire game, the Gophers scored in four straight innings, but the BuckeyesâÄô three big innings were enough to seal a six-inning win that also was interrupted by rain. âÄúWe had energy the entire time,âÄù Carls said. âÄúWe definitely thought we werenâÄôt going to lose that game.âÄù Buckeyes shortstop Alicia Herron hit a two-run home run as part of a four-run first inning. A second-inning home run by Gophers sophomore designated player Whitney Erickson and a third-inning sacrifice fly by junior first baseman Malisa Barnes made it 4-2. In the fourth, sophomore center fielder Dannie Skrove was hit by a pitch and scored via two wild pitches by Ohio StateâÄôs Megan Miller. Nichols replaced Miller with one out in the fourth and stranded the tying run at second base. In the fourth inning of a 4-3 game, Koch threw eight straight balls to load the bases, and Marder cleared them with a two-out grand slam, making it 8-3. Minnesota scored two runs the next inning and had runners at second and third with one out, but Skrove popped out and Dorle struck out to end the threat. Coletta had a two-run double as part of a five-run sixth inning and scored the game-ending run on a wild pitch.