College softball: Minnesota West hits well, comes up empty in win column
WORTHINGTON — Tanner Gunnink has been spending a lot of time working on her swing lately.
And on Saturday, the work paid off for the freshman on Minnesota West’s softball team.
Gunnink had four hits, including a three-run home run, to lead the Lady Jays against Anoka-Ramsey in a Southern Division doubleheader.
“I felt like I was struggling since high school,” Gunnink said. “I felt like I was a pretty decent hitter and then I came here and I was like, ‘OK, I have to do something. I have to get in the groove again.’”
However, the Golden Rams earned the sweep, 8-0 and 17-12.
“I think all in all, we played good,” Gunnink said. “We came back. We were struggling, but it only got better from when we were struggling.”
Minnesota West wasn’t having any troubles putting the ball in play against A-R starting pitcher Kaylee Lofboom in Game 1. In fact, the Lady Jays didn’t have a single strikeout and had six hits.
However, none of those runners were able to cross the plate in an 8-0, five-inning loss.
“Timely hits and getting some runs would have made a difference in that game,” West head coach Jeff Linder said. “We were hitting it, we just weren’t getting anybody across. No strikeouts? That’s great.”
The Golden Rams were able to score right away in the first inning. They scored twice in the first, three times in the third and three more times in the fourth.
Minnesota West had six different players with one hit in the game and stranded four runners on base in five innings.
“We weren’t hitting gaps,” Gunnink said. “They were there and we were hitting it straight to them. We just have to hit gaps, I think, is where we need to start practicing.”
The second game was a completely different story for the Jays’ offense.
After A-R went scoreless in the first inning, it didn’t take long for the home team to get on the board.
With two outs and two runners on, Gunnink stepped up to the plate. She sent the Lofboom offering deep over the outfield fence for a three-run home run.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit and people have been helping me with my hips and stuff,” Gunnink said. “When I was up there, everyone kept saying, ‘Your hips,’ and I just used my hips and it was gone. I just swung I guess. I was told to swing as hard as I could and I did. It felt really good, right when I hit it off the bat I said, ‘That has to be gone.’”
It turned out to be a big spark for the Lady Jays offense, which finished with 12 runs on 17 hits in the second game. Gunnink, Rebecca Kazemba, Rebecca Linder and Taylor Wasmund each had three hits while Rachael Evans and Breanna Nelson had two apiece.
“I feel like it got our momentum going,” Gunnink said. “After that, we were up and we were fired up. I think it really helped us because it was like, ‘OK, let’s go, we can do this, we can stick with them.’ And we did, I thought we played amazing. There’s nothing to hang our heads about.”
A-R answered with a run in the second, but the home team matched that as Kazemba drove in Taylor Noid.
However, the Golden Rams exploded in the third. They sent 14 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs on eight hits and had an 11-4 lead.
Maer Abella drove in a run for the Lady Jays in the bottom of the third, but the Rams answered with a run in the fourth and one in the fifth.
Trailing 13-5 and in danger of ending the game early again, the Jays needed at least one run in the bottom of the fifth. They did better than that.
Gunnink led off with a single and Wasmund followed with a single. Evans singled and Abella drove in a run on a fielder’s choice. Kazemba drove in a run with a single and Olivia Hopwood plated two with a double. Nelson scored Kazemba, and after Rebecca Linder singled, Gunnink drove in Hopwood. Wasmund had her second hit of the inning to drive in Linder as the Jays scored seven times in the fifth inning.
“In the second game we got down big, but we just kept playing hard,” Jeff Linder said. “Even though we’re tired and you look at the scoreboard and it drains you just looking at it, they came out here and started playing and working hard. Again, I’m proud of them.”
A-R scored four more runs in the final two innings to complete the sweep.
“I can’t be prouder as a coach,” Jeff Linder said. “We are tired and injured and they just kept playing. We made a game of it. We never quit and we always stood by each other. We have some resting to do and some injuries to take care of, but it says a lot about the character of our team.”
After playing back-to-back doubleheaders, the Jays (3-10, 2-6) have a couple days off before traveling to Rochester on Tuesday.
“I think it will be good for us to take a break from the field and let our muscles rest,” Gunnink said. “That’s what it mainly is, our muscles are all so sore and our arms are sore. I think it will be good for us, we just have to come out strong on Tuesday.”
R H E
Anoka Ramsey 203 30 — 8 10 0
Minnesota West 000 00 — 0 6 3
R H E
Anoka Ramsey 01(10) 111 3 — 17 15 3
Minnesota West 311 070 0 — 12 17 5