Michigan puts Gophers under .500

Michael Rand

In a conversation Thursday afternoon, Michigan’s Carol Hutchins didn’t speak with the confidence one might expect of a coach who has led a team to four Big Ten titles in the last five years.
The reason was simple: Hutchins was genuinely concerned that her team wouldn’t be able to bounce back from ace pitcher Sara Griffin’s season-ending arm injury earlier this month. The absence of Griffin, Big Ten Player of the Year in 1995 and 1996, left Hutchins and her team searching for someone to fill the void.
“They still know they can play,” Hutchins said. “But it’s tough without that go-to person.”
The Wolverines entered this weekend’s series with the Gophers hoping to find a new top gun. And at Minnesota’s expense, they got what they wanted.
Senior Kelly Holmes pitched three consecutive complete games — both ends of a Saturday doubleheader and Sunday’s single game — as Michigan swept Minnesota with 2-1, 10-2 and 1-0 wins.
The series, which figured to shape the Big Ten race, did just that. The Wolverines (40-13-1, 10-4 in the Big Ten) solidified their chances of qualifying for the four-team conference tournament, while Minnesota (31-13, 6-7) is on shaky ground.
Lack of offensive production was the theme for the Gophers, as they batted just 9 for 73 (.123) as a team this weekend. Leadoff hitter Rachel Nelson, a two-time All-American, was 0-for-9 but did score two of Minnesota’s three runs.
The lone bright spots at the plate for the Gophers — who never led at any point in the series — were Shannon Beeler (three hits), Jennifer Fox (two runs batted in) and Amber Hegland (two hits). The rest of the team went 2 for 49.
The non-existent offense and shaky defense (six errors in the series) negated solid pitching efforts in two of the three games. Steph Klaviter and Jennifer Johnson combined on a six-hitter in game one and Johnson threw a five-hit complete game and struck out six in game three.
Holmes, doing her best impression of Griffin, outdid her mound opponent by one run in both of those games. Griffin recorded all four of Michigan’s wins over Minnesota last year, including a no-hitter.
Minnesota continued a recent losing trend against Michigan. The Gophers are now 1-24 in their last 25 games against the Wolverines, with their lone win coming last season.
The near future doesn’t get much easier for the Gophers. They host Iowa, which was undefeated in the Big Ten before the weekend, in a doubleheader on Wednesday.

SATURDAY (GAME ONE)
Gophers 000 001 00 — 1 3 2
Michigan 001 000 01 — 2 6 1
Klaviter, Johnson (5) and Bartholmey; Holmes and Smith. W — Holmes, 16-5. L — Johnson, 8-7. T — 2:04. A — 308.

SATURDAY (GAME TWO)
Michigan 205 201 — 10 10 2
Gophers 200 000 — 2 3 2
Holmes and Smith; Logue, Johnson (3), Klaviter (4) and Bartholmey. W — Holmes, 17-5. L — Logue, 10-2. HR — Gentile. T — 1:51. A — 308.

SUNDAY’S SUMMARY
Gophers 000 000 0 — 0 3 2
Michigan 001 000 0 — 1 5 3
Johnson and Bartholmey; Holmes and Smith. W — Holmes, 18-5. L — Johnson, 8-8. T — 1:35. A — 379.

Gophers hitting statistics (3 games)
AB R H RBI
Nelson 9 2 0 0
Peters 8 0 1 0
Hegland 7 1 2 1
Beeler 8 0 3 0
Sbrocco 9 0 0 0
Fox 9 0 2 2
Bartholmey 5 0 0 0
Halvorson 8 0 0 0
Midthun 8 0 1 0
Ballard 2 0 0 0
Totals 73 3 9 3