Beeler sparks Gophers softball team to pair of wins on weekend

by Michael Dougherty

As Shannon Beeler goes, so goes the 21st-ranked Gophers softball team.
The junior shortstop led the Gophers (39-16, 10-8 in the Big Ten) to two victories in a three-game road series with Indiana (11-31, 5-16) over the weekend.
In Sunday’s finale, with the score tied at 1-1 in the top of the fifth inning, Beeler smacked a two-run home run, putting Minnesota in front for good. The Gophers won the game 8-3.
She is one homer away from tying the season-team record of 11, set by Jennifer McGuinness in 1994. In addition, Beeler’s four RBIs in the series pushed her season total to 63, which breaks her team record of 62 set in her freshman season of 1996.
First baseman Dana Ballard, who recently emerged from an 0-for-20 slump, belted a three-run dinger in the top of the seventh for her first homer of the season.
Steph Klaviter scattered seven Hoosier hits over 5 2/3 innings, improving her record to 14-9 for the season.
Minnesota won the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, 6-1. Beeler set the tone early, with an RBI double in the bottom of the first, and third baseman Amber Hegland followed with an single which drove in Beeler.
The pair would combine for two similar runs in the bottom of the third, as Beeler again had an RBI double and Hegland drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Beeler finished 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Senior second baseman Laura Peters was 2-for-2 with two runs scored, and tied a team record with three stolen bases.
Klaviter took the win, going 5 1/3 innings and striking out five. The only Hoosier run came on an error by catcher Erin Brophy in the top of the fifth.
The Gophers lost the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader 2-1, by giving up two runs in the bottom of the first.
Wendy Logue was looking for her 18th win of the year, but hurt herself when she walked the leadoff hitter Khara Good. Good stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice. She then scored when Logue unleashed a wild pitch.
But Good’s base running tactics were all for naught, as Indiana’s third baseman Monica Armendarez took a Logue pitch out of the park later in the inning.
The Gophers got one run back in the next inning, when Kate Schwartz drove in Brophy with an infield single.
The Gophers put runners on first and second with one out in the third, when Beeler walked and Hegland singled. But a Brophy groundout and an Erin Mooney strikeout ended the only legitimate scoring threat they could muster.
Minnesota’s inability to put away lesser opponents in games like this has put a strain on its post-season possibilities.
The Big Ten takes the top four teams in the conference standings to its tournament, and the Gophers find themselves percentage points ahead of Michigan State (30-17, 11-10) for the final spot.
After a doubleheader with Wisconsin (18-27-1, 7-12) on Wednesday, Michigan State comes to town next weekend for a three-game series.