Taking to the road with a 9-14 record, the Drake softball team didn’t seem like the sort that could hang with No. 22 Minnesota in Wednesday afternoon’s doubleheader.
But that is why they play the games.
The 22nd-ranked Gophers got all they could handle from the Bulldogs, but escaped with a pair of 2-1 wins Wednesday at the Bierman Softball Complex.
Minnesota (28-10) has now won five of its last six games; Drake has lost 10 its last 11.
“I thought we hit the ball well,” Gophers co-coach Lisa Bernstein said, although her team got only 11 hits and four runs in the series. “Their shortstop made a lot of nice plays to rob us of some hits. But the kids were seeing the ball well and being aggressive.”
The aggressive hitting, however, didn’t pay off until extra innings in game one. Minnesota got on the board with a quick run in the first inning on a walk to freshman Tammi Hays and back-to-back singles by senior Shannon Beeler and freshman Jordanne Nygren.
Drake tied the score at 1-1 in the top of the third inning on a rare error by Beeler. But after a sluggish start, Gophers starter Steph Klaviter shut down the Bulldogs the rest of the way.
“I was struggling with the strike zone early in the game,” Klaviter said. “The umpire wasn’t calling much for me on the inside corner. But I stayed with the game plan, hitting my spots and keeping the ball low, and our defense did a great job.”
But while Klaviter wasshutting down Drake, Sarah Haak was shutting down the Gophers.
Aided by some stellar defense on the left side of the infield, Haak held Minnesota in check after the first inning, and the score held into extra innings.
Then senior Erin Brophy decided enough was enough.
The Gophers’ Angel Braden reached on an infield hit with one out in the bottom of the ninth. After Michelle Bennett sacrificed Braden over to second, Brophy fought off the stiff wind blowing in from left field and doubled off the wall to score Braden.
“(Haak) was throwing a lot of inside screwballs, and I hadn’t gotten one I liked on my previous at-bats,” Brophy said. “And I just felt I was going to get a nice (pitch) on that one, and I just did what I could to get the runner around.”
Both Klaviter and Haak went all nine innings. The win pushed Klaviter’s record to 10-5.
The second game started much like the first, as Beeler was hit by a pitch and Nygren ripped a double down the left field line to score Beeler and a 1-0 lead.
Minnesota added a second run in the second on Dana Ballard’s RBI triple to right-center to score Bennett.
Drake was held in check by Heather Brown in the second, who went all seven innings, giving up six hits and an unearned run in the sixth. She struck out 10 and is a perfect 8-0 on the season.
With the narrow sweep of Drake in hand, Minnesota will travel to Michigan this weekend for a crucial three-game series against the sixth-ranked Wolverines.
“It’s a big, big weekend,” Brophy said. “I can’t wait to go and play them. They lost their big pitcher they had for the past three years so they’re different. We owe them a few games.”