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Gophers softball finishes trip to Texas on high note

Minnesota dropped the first four games of the weekend but blew out New Mexico in the final game.
Image by Gopher Athletics (courtesy)
Minnesota lost four games last weekend, all within two runs, three of which were one-run games.

Gophers softball put together a complete performance in game five of the North Texas Invitational after losing the first four games.

In the first two games, the Gophers only led in one inning throughout the two contests, losing to Texas Tech in game one by a score of 2-1 and North Texas in the following game 7-5.

On the second day, Minnesota jumped over Texas Tech, scoring six unanswered runs in the first six innings. The Red Raiders responded with a rally of their own, scoring six runs in the sixth and walking it off on an error in the seventh inning in a 7-6 loss for Minnesota.

Sophomore right fielder Addison Leschber said Texas Tech’s offense got hot and it was hard to slow them down.

 “I don’t think necessarily it was all our fault,” Leschber said. “Their bats started going and they started making those adjustments really fast and hitting those gap shots.”

Junior third baseman Kayla Chavez said that after Texas Tech took the momentum, Minnesota was not able to regain control.

The Gophers also dropped a game to Stephen F. Austin, 1-0. Minnesota struggled to string together hits and were no-hit throughout the first 3.1 innings.

Bri Enter had an excellent day in the circle, posting a career-high eight strikeouts. Enter pitched seven innings of one-run ball, but the Gophers could not muster enough offensive production to reward her efforts.

Chavez said Enter pitched great to start the season, attributing it to her confidence and an increase in spin on her pitches.

Rounding out the weekend, the Gophers rebounded from their losses with a 10-1 offensive explosion against New Mexico. Minnesota saw four players finish the game with multi-hit performances.

Leschber, a Texas native, said she had many family members at the games this past weekend. Leschber added that her family barbecue after the second game Saturday was a factor in the Gophers’ strong performance against the Aggies.

“I think that helped contribute to our success on Sunday,” Leschber said. “It brought us together as a team.”

Minnesota was able to finish on a high note but left Texas with four more losses on their overall record.

The Gophers have struggled this season with defensive errors leading to unearned runs. On the year, 16 of Minnesota’s 58 runs allowed were unearned. 

Gophers head coach Piper Ritter said winning games is tough enough and giving up extra bases to teams further exacerbates the problem.

“When you give up extra freebies, whether they take an extra base on you or you walk someone, it’s really hard,” Ritter said. “You want to make them earn every 60 feet they go.”

No matter how big the troubles for the Gophers get, one constant always remains: sophomore shortstop Jess Oakland destroying the softball.

Oakland this season is 19 for 41 (.463) at the plate, good for third in the Big Ten. The sophomore is leading the team in home runs (2), RBIs (10) and on-base percentage (.532).

Oakland is getting more volume in the field compared to her freshman season and is working to clean up some early miscues on defense. Oakland currently leads the team with five errors on 49 opportunities.

Ritter said Oakland is doing a phenomenal job, and while she may have mishandled some defensive plays, she has seen 20 more groundball chances this season than last year during this point of the season.

Minnesota will look to build on their recent win as they head into back-to-back tournaments in North Carolina and South Carolina.

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