Fielding woes plague teams

by Noah Seligman

On a Sunday full of fielding misadventures, the final blow was dealt to Minnesota’s softball team.

In the first game of the day’s double-header, the Gophers (27-15, 7-5 Big Ten) took advantage of seven errors by Indiana’s defense to score five unearned runs and win 6-4.

But in the second game, with two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the seventh, the Hoosiers got a break of their own.

A weak fly ball – the first career collegiate hit for Indiana’s Meghan Connors – drove in the only run of the game.

“We really can’t help the elements,” Minnesota junior Rachel Keeney said. “That pop fly was completely foul and the wind took it back in. It’s a tough break.”

A fierce wind blew from left to right across the diamond. Keeney and Minnesota third baseman Tonya Mitchell gave chase as the ball appeared set for foul territory.

“It got caught in the wind,” Connors said. “It floated around and (Minnesota) couldn’t get to it.”

The two infielders could only watch as the ball drifted back into the field of play.

“(It’s a) tough way to lose,” Minnesota co-coach Julie Standering said. “But it’s not going to knock us down. We’re going to get back up and go after the next game.”

The loss denied senior pitcher Piper Marten the chance to become Minnesota’s all-time wins leader.

The Farmington, N.M., native pitched a three-hit shutout Friday to tie Steph Klaviter, who pitched for the Gophers from 1996-99 with 84 career wins.

Marten did take sole possession of first in appearances in Minnesota history after making four appearances on the weekend, upping her career mark to 164.

Marten pitched 23 1/3 innings over the weekend, allowing three runs, all earned, and going 1-2 to move her season record to 17-9. Marten also picked up her second save in Sunday’s opening game win.

Freshman Rene Konderik earned her first Big Ten win in game one Sunday, the first Gophers pitcher other than Marten to win a game in conference play this season.

Neither offense could get started Sunday, but the Gophers struck first, plating six in the bottom of the fourth inning.

The Hoosiers infield committed six errors in the inning, leading to six runs for Minnesota, only one earned.

“We played their weakness,” Keeney said. “We saw that their weakness was their corners, so we went after them.”

Minnesota sent nine batters to the plate in the inning, while only getting two hits as a team.

The Hoosiers switched pitchers to stop the bleeding, only to see Heather Stillians’ first pitch get past catcher Tory Yamaguchi. The gaffe enabled the Gophers’ Andrea Smith to score from third.

Indiana scored twice in the fifth and sixth innings, but was unable to get any offense started in the seventh.

Minnesota has now split its last five series, including five of six two-game sets in conference play.

The Gophers topped Purdue 2-0 Friday before losing 2-1 in extra innings Saturday.

Purdue’s Staci Falzon hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Boilermakers the victory Saturday.

“They hit the ball early in the count,” Marten said. “They were aggressive.”

Minnesota could have used some aggressiveness of its own at the plate. After stranding 14 runners in the loss, the Gophers were upset with their performance at the plate.

“I’m disappointed in our production,” Minnesota co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “We left too many runners on base. Piper pitched her heart out for us and we have to step up and get her a run.”