Gophers split doubleheader with Green Bay

Mark Heller

Finally, if only for one game, the Gophers softball team broke through its own wall.
Despite the giddiness and excitement generated from playing in a new stadium — a stadium which ushers in a new era of Minnesota softball — somewhat lost was the fact they hadn’t won a game in it.
Minnesota (25-22) entered Tuesday’s doubleheader against Wisconsin-Green Bay (22-4) stuck in an 0-4 muck at home. In symbolic fashion, freshman ace Angie Recknor ushered in the first win inside their new confines.
Recknor (20-21) raced through Green Bay’s lineup for the first 10 innings, picking up a two-hit, 3-0 win in the first game. She retired the last 12 batters in a row, and 20 of the final 21.
She is the third first-year pitcher in Minnesota history to win 20 games in a season.
“I think it speaks highly of our team playing well,” she said, “getting the outs and the hits that we need for support.”
But after throwing a gem in the first game, Green Bay figured out Recknor in the second game. A throwing error by catcher Meghan Smith led to two runs in the top of the second. An RBI single by Connie Koceta made it 3-0 Green Bay in the top of the fourth.
For two straight innings, the Gophers squandered chances to cut into their deficit. Finally in the fourth, Morgan Holden tripled and a throwing error allowed her to score. Then Minnesota loaded the bases and rightfielder Veronica Roberts ripped a triple into the left-centerfield gap, scoring three runs for a 4-3 lead. If Roberts hadn’t scored on a wild pitch on the very next pitch, she might have wanted to go after co-coach Julie Standering with her bat.
Standering is the team’s third base coach. The throw from the outfield sailed by third base, but hit Standering in the box. Standering’s save stopped the ball from rolling on, potentially preventing Roberts from scoring on the play.
Afterwards, Roberts was quick to declare that she probably wouldn’t have scored anyway.
“Not a chance,” Standering said. “I had the angle played absolutely perfect.”
Obviously, she did have the angle right, but Minnesota’s coach couldn’t stop the team from earning its 5-3 lead.
But Recknor and reliever Meagan Hautala couldn’t hold it. They gave up six consecutive hits in the fifth that lead to four runs and a 7-5 Gophers deficit. Green Bay added runs in the sixth and seventh for a 9-5 final.
A split may not be so bad, given Green Bay’s 21-3 record heading into the twinbill. In addition to Recknor’s first game brilliance, Minnesota hitters knocked out 17 hits, and Roberts’ three-run triple was the clutch hit the team had been missing for the past few weeks.
But the biggest winner for the Gophers was Katie Orth. The sophomore designated hitter is 6-for-8 in the last three games, and has raised her average from .043 to .226.
Most of the Gophers’ averages are starting to go up. So too, are their spirits.
“Coaches have been working with me and I’ve really been focusing on the ball,” Orth said. I’ve been getting a chance to get in, a little bit of luck and seeing the ball better.”

Mark Heller covers softball and welcomes comments at [email protected]