Minnesota sweeps midweek home doubleheader

The Gophers took two games from Wisconsin-Green Bay at Cowles Stadium.

Emily Wickstrom

Minnesota’s softball team had picked up just three shutout victories in 41 games. On Wednesday they added two more.

The Gophers (14-29, 1-15 Big Ten) defeated Wisconsin-Green Bay 4-0 and 5-0 in a doubleheader at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

The pitching combination of freshmen Katie Dalen and Briana Hassett and junior Rene Konderik struck out 11 batters and allowed zero runs and just nine hits over both games.

“It helps your confidence,” Dalen said. “It’s good to work on some pitches to the weaker hitters. I think we did a good job of hitting our spots today and keeping the ball up.”

The victories earned Minnesota its first series sweep of the season and ended its eight-game losing streak.

“The kids are working hard,” Minnesota co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “Like I said, if you keep working hard, keep coming out with a good attitude, good things will happen.”

The sweep also gave the Gophers some momentum going into their final Big Ten games this weekend.

“We went on a losing streak, but these teams are a great way to come out and get some wins and get our confidence back,” junior catcher Megan Higginbotham said.

In game one the Gophers scored all four of their runs in the fourth inning.

Junior Katie Meyer hit an infield single to drive in Megan Higginbotham and make the score 1-0.

With two outs Wisconsin-Green Bay left fielder Anna Nieznanski dropped a fly ball hit by Minnesota senior Stefanie Watt, which allowed another Gophers run to score.

The Phoenix error was followed by freshmen Colleen Conway’s two-RBI single to put Minnesota up 4-0.

Although a Minnesota victory appeared certain, Wisconsin-Green Bay threatened to end the Gophers’ shutout in the top of the fifth inning.

With the bases loaded and one out, Konderik was called on to relieve starting pitcher Hassett.

And Konderik did her job in relief, getting Phoenix designated hitter Kate Sullivan to hit a ground ball right at her, forcing a 1-2-3 double play.

“That was critical,” Bernstein said. “That’s what (Konderik’s) role has been all year.”

In game two Higginbotham gave Minnesota a first-inning lead after hitting a double to deep left center that scored Chrissy Sward.

With the bases loaded in the third inning, pinch-hitter Lisa Parks, who injured her leg on April 16, hit a two-run double to left center.

Dalen struck out six Wisconsin-Milwaukee batters in six innings and Konderik preserved the shutout in the seventh.

“(Dalen) held them scoreless for six innings and was able to keep her off-speed pitch in the game,” Bernstein said.

Valerie Alston went 2-for-3 in game two for the Gophers, while six other players had hits in support of Minnesota’s pitchers.

“Everybody has the same approach of, ‘We’ve got to go out here and win this game,’ whether it’s Northwestern, Michigan or Wisconsin-Green Bay,” Higginbotham said.