Timely hits still concern coaches

In two losses last weekend, the Gophers stranded 20 runners on base.

Noah Seligman

So far this season, hitting has been a lot like comedy for Minnesota’s softball team: timing is everything.

Tonight, the Gophers (25-25, 7-5 Big Ten) host Drake (23-18, 8-8 MVC) for a double header at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

And after stranding 20 runners combined in two losses last weekend, acquiring hits with runners on base will be key for the Gophers.

That being said, Minnesota coach Lisa Bernstein said her team is not going to make any major changes at the plate.

“You keep hitting,” she said. “We’re hitting the ball; we’re just not hitting the ball with runners in scoring position.”

The players looked at video this week to analyze their swing and make any necessary adjustments.

In practice, the Gophers have worked on simulating game situations to work on hitting with runners in scoring position.

Bernstein said she wants her team to take more of an attack mentality to the plate.

“There are times in a season when you have to look pitch and there are times when you have to look zone,” she said. “I’d rather our kids be more aggressive earlier in the count.”

Senior Hailee Nanchy concurred, but also said a productive plate appearance depends on adjusting to the game circumstances.

“There’s always the strategic approach to try and move runners,” she said. “Certain situations call for aggressiveness and in others you have to lay off.”

Despite the recent offensive struggles, Nanchy said the team has continued to work hard to improve.

“Everybody has to go up there and take their hacks,” she said. “We’re going to get them eventually.”

While the two games tonight do not affect conference standings, Drake poses a stiff test for Minnesota.

The Bulldogs come in playing well, winning of five of their last six games.

Drake coach Rich Calvert credits his team’s mental approach to the recent success.

“Confidence is huge,” he said. “(Because) every team is so evenly matched throughout the country this year.”

Drake enjoyed its trip to Minneapolis earlier this year. The Bulldogs won the Metrodome Classic, held Feb. 12-15.

During the tournament, Drake dropped the Gophers 2-1 on Feb. 12 and 1-0 on Feb.14.

“They were a very young group,” Calvert said. “We were able to catch them at the right time.”

This time around the Gophers are anxious to get another shot at the Bulldogs.

“We got a little revenge to come,” Nanchy said. “We’re looking forward to getting some revenge against them.”

A call to arms

Bernstein said the Gophers will use the midweek nonconference games to give their two freshmen pitchers some work.

Rene Konderik will start the first game today while Mandy Valadez will get the nod in game two.

Konderik is 4-2 this season with six saves. She has made 14 appearances and posted a 3.06 ERA of 48 innings of work.

Valadez is 1-0 with four saves in seven appearances. She has a 3.23 ERA in 21 2/3 innings pitched.