I arrived late for the first game so I didn’t see the first DenHartog HR, but I saw DenHartog and Oakland both pulverize line drives over the CF wall, and in the second game they both hit moonshots over the LF wall into a pretty stiff north wind. Both of those were hit off Hambrick, who along with Schwartz, threw two innings against each team in Game 2.
The Gopher hitters weren’t very kind to Hambrick, who struggled a little with command of her off speed stuff, which left her vulnerable to the Gophers right-handed hitters. Her very good back door curve, which she was able to hit the corner with, made her tougher against lefties yesterday. The Gophers scored six runs against her in two innings, but to be fair the UMD defense didn’t help her much. By comparison, she pitched 3-1/3 innings against last year’s iteration of the Gophers and gave up three hits and three runs (one earned) with three Ks and zero walks.
Schwartz was outstanding yesterday. She exhibited a confident, no-nonsense presence in the circle and wasted no time throwing strike after strike. When she is throwing her change for strikes, she will be tough against any team. She only surrendered two hits hit in four innings, although she was spared facing DenHartog and Oakland when we sent up pinch hitters ahead 11-1 in the sixth.
Enter started Game 2 and struggled finding the strike zone early, ultimately costing a run when one of UMDs best hitters, Poole, lined a solid single to LF with runners on first and second. Once she settled in, she induced mostly soft ground balls with the exception of a double that DenHartog just missed with a diving attempt. She threw three innings before being relieved by Schwartz and Hambrick, who both threw two scoreless innings against the Bulldog hitters.
My overall impression:
- Oakland is every bit the stud we hoped she’d be offensively and defensively. Greeting an experienced D1 pitcher like Hambrick with a towering HR and hitting line drives her next two at bats just confirmed what I already suspected. She will fare well against D1 pitching, and may even be our most polished hitter already. She also showed off above average range and arm, going deep in the hole on a few occasions to rob UMD of hits. Her physical stature, confidence, and overall play reminds me of Lilli Piper. I think she could be that good.
- The Gophers really upgraded their team speed. Bradley and Gardner both nearly beat out routine ground balls to the right side. Those two and Burnett appear to be as fast or maybe even faster than a healthy Jensen.
- Our overall defense should be better than last year despite losing Dowell. Outfield defense in particular should be much better. Bradley has a much better arm than Jensen in LF, and Burnett and Gardner both nearly threw out UMD hitters at first on singles to right. Gardner also exhibited a cannon from the right field corner to second.
- A healthy Pease will improve the pitching immensely. Enter performed about the same, maybe even a little better, than Leavitt did against UMD a year ago. Leavitt allowed several hard hit balls while UMD had trouble squaring anything up against Enter, who appears to be more of a finesse, drop ball pitcher. Schwartz absolutely killed it yesterday, and should challenge Enter for the #2 starter role in the spring. I wish we could have seen Enter against the Gopher hitters. Despite her struggles yesterday, Hambrick is certainly an upgrade over our #3 or #4 pitchers from last year, but yesterday at least, Schwartz in particular and Enter were more impressive.
- Cox continues to impress at the plate and will once again be our #1 pinch hitter. Leschber was also solid. I suspect that when Kinch returns, Leschber will be the starting 1B. Ehlke is imposing at the plate, has a good eye, and makes better contact than she has in the past. Connell and Werner are freshmen who need more time to develop. Hambrick and Schwartz handled them pretty easily. So with Cox, Valencia, Gardner, and Ehlke, we have decent options off the bench.