Gophers offense finds power from new faces

Hope Brandner has led the power surge, leading the team with three home runs.

Utility Carlie Brandt winds up for a pitch during the game against the University of South Dakota on April 4, 2017.

Ellen Schmidt, Daily File Photo

Utility Carlie Brandt winds up for a pitch during the game against the University of South Dakota on April 4, 2017.

Paul Hodowanic

The Gophers have found success from unexpected places this season as new faces have emerged to lead Minnesota on offense.

Of the eight home runs the team has hit this season, all of them have been from players who had never hit a home run in a Gophers uniform before:  Hope Brandner, Carlie Brandt, Natalie DenHartog, Ali Lindner and Anne Miller. 

“You know generally, especially in the top [and] middle of your lineup, that some of your power will come [from there],” said head coach Jamie Trachsel. “So, whenever you get support, to be able to change the game with one swing and put the run on the board is a big deal.”

The team has needed the new source of power. The players who returned from last season’s team hit just 18 of the team’s total 55 home runs in 2018. 

Sophomore Hope Brandner, who leads the team with three home runs, transferred to the team this year after one season at Oregon State. She is the only one of the new group to have any collegiate home runs prior to this season, as she hit 12 as a freshman.

“We knew she was a hitter because you don’t have the numbers she had as a freshman in the PAC-12, who generally has the toughest pitching in the nation,” Trachsel said. “She’s smart, she’s confident, she knows what she is capable of doing. … To have someone with that moxie, that just kind of [flat out] knows she’s a great hitter and she can change the game with one swing [is huge].”

DenHartog has hit two home runs this season, and is the only other player on the team with multiple home runs through seven games. However, DenHartog said she still wants to do more.

“You say producing, but I see two hits and I see more things I can do, and I see more things we can do as a team,” DenHartog said. “I think we know that, and we’ve done good in opportunities we’ve been given, but we still have so much to prove and I think that goes for all of us.”

The the influx of production from new players has helped take some pressure off the veterans because they see their teammates stepping up. 

“I think it just shows we have a lot of depth in our lineup. A lot of different people can produce runs when we need it,” said senior captain Maddie Houlihan. “It doesn’t have to be one or two or a couple specific people that need to produce every single at bat. I think it just shows that there’s a lot of strengths in our lineup and there’s really not a weakness. People can come off the bench and do the same as any starter which is pretty amazing.”

The team will hit the road again this weekend, traveling to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to play five games in three days against the University of Alabama, the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Missouri State.