Gophers look forward to 6 games at home

Minnesota has the lowest team batting average in the Big Ten.

by Noah Seligman

Minnesota’s softball team was not entirely satisfied with how it played in two losses to eighth-ranked Michigan last weekend.

So, the Gophers went straight from the airport to the practice field Sunday to improve their short game and give the pitchers a chance to throw.

This evening, Minnesota (28-19, 7-7 Big Ten) hosts a doubleheader against University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (7-21, 4-7 Horizon League) at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

And after dropping three straight games, the Gophers are looking to get back in the win column as they start a six-game home stand.

But facing the third-worst team in the Horizon League doesn’t mean anything, Minnesota co-coach Lisa Bernstein said.

“It doesn’t matter to us,” she said. “We have to keep focusing on what we need to do to win.”

Namely, hitting – and at opportune moments.

Minnesota has the lowest team batting average in the conference with a mark of .204 and a slugging percentage of .247. The Gophers also have the fewest RBIs in the league with 21, and the fewest hits with 64.

Minnesota struck out 14 times and failed to draw a walk last weekend while only scoring one run. But Bernstein said she is not concerned about her team’s hitting approach. She also said she attributes the struggles to Michigan’s great pitching.

“Those are two really good pitchers we faced,” she said. “They shut people out. I give them credit.”

Not easy being green

Don’t expect too many offensive fireworks from the visiting bench, either.

After a 13-24 record last year, things have not been any easier for the Phoenix this season.

The leading hitter for the Phoenix, freshman Michelle Kaminski, is hitting a respectable .341. The second leading hitter, Amanda VandenHeuvel, is batting only .250.

Conversely, as a team, Minnesota has five hitters north of .250. University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is hitting .200 in conference play – worst in the Horizon League.

It’s not all bad news for the Phoenix. They lead the league with a .976 fielding percentage.

Infirmary report

Minnesota junior shortstop Rachel Keeney missed Saturday’s 6-1 loss to Michigan because of an injury to her right index finger.

Keeney said it is doubtful that she will play this evening against the Phoenix.

“I will not be playing as of right now,” Keeney said Monday.

She described the injury as an avulsion fracture – or a slight chip of the bone – on her knuckle. Keeney said she was held out of the game on Sunday because of a concern that she could completely fracture the bone.

Despite missing the mainstay on the left side of the infield, the Gophers received some solid play from sophomore Melissa Murnane.

“Melissa did a great job,” Kenney said. “She stepped in with complete confidence.”

Bernstein said Murnane will be starting at shortstop this evening and other younger players could also see action.

Murnane said after Saturday’s loss that the Gophers are anxious to get on the field again.

“Go right back at it,” she said. “Play Minnesota ball.”