The Gophers head into the final regular season series of the season against Northwestern having won their last 11 games. They stand in third place in the Big Ten with a chance to climb into the top spot after this weekend.
While some Gophers' players, such as stars Hope Brandner and Amber Fiser, continue to be honored for their outstanding play, one player continues to do the dirty work behind the scenes to help keep the Gophers on top of their game: Carlie Brandt.
Brandt has played seven different positions for the Gophers in her career: pitcher, left field, center field, first base, second base, third base and shortstop. She has played in 38 games this season and started in 33.
"To have someone who can be in the outfield, play short, pitch for you, hit in your lineup — especially when you get down numbers and have a couple injuries — someone like her is irreplaceable," head coach Jamie Trachsel said. "She's unselfish and willing to do whatever she needs [to] for the team, and she's done a great job."
Brandt carries a .182 average into the weekend with a home run and five RBIs this season. Brandt's value really shines in any of the numerous positions she can play in the field. Among players who have played in at least 30 games this season, Brandt is fourth on the team with a .974 fielding percentage.
She has also shown her value in the circle. In her 32 career appearances, she holds a 1.46 ERA and a 14-2 record. Brandt hasn't heard her name called to pitch much this year, having just two appearances, largely in part to the continued dominance of Fiser and the rebound season from Sydney Smith.
The Le Sueur, Minnesota native spent most of her time in high school as a pitcher, but it didn't take her long to get comfortable elsewhere when she got to the Twin Cities.
"We saw [the learning curve] when she was in high school," Trachsel said. "She's just a great athlete. A lot of times your best athletes are your pitchers, especially in the Midwest, so we knew she was versatile."
While she could play almost anywhere on a given day, Brandt doesn't change her preparation. She acknowledges it's a challenge; she tries to keep an open mind and be ready for any situation.
"My approach stays consistent ... I'm going to do whatever it takes for this team," she said. "Everyone is working so hard, and you can see that hard work start to pay off for everyone out there."
Gophers prepare for Northwestern
The Gophers' biggest series of the year has arrived. A series win against Northwestern would vault them in front of the Wildcats and give them a shot at the Big Ten regular season championship, depending on how Michigan fares against Maryland.
All three games are sold out and team acknowledged there is a heightened atmosphere to the games.
"There's going to a ton of emotion to this. The crowd's going to be crazy," Trachsel said. "It may come down to the mentality and emotional control of one team. You can't ask for more than to be playing for something."
The series begins Friday, May 3 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium at 6 p.m.