When the Gophers softball team needs a hit, it knows it can count on the bat of MaKenna Partain.
The Gophers' senior infielder has been a mark of consistency for the team in the last four years. Partain has hit at least .375 in each of her four seasons at Minnesota, and has 232 hits, 131 RBI and a .382 batting average for her career. Her offensive production has only progressed in 2020, ranking second on the team in batting average, hitting .408, and her 11 RBIs also rank second on the team. For Partain, offense is a "mentality game" and staying level mentally leads to that connection and consistency at the plate.
"I don't really try to think about a lot when I'm up at the plate. I just try to think about attacking balls over the plate and just trying to do whatever I can to get on base for my team," Partain said. "Any way I can get on is any way I can have someone else behind me hit me in."
Partain hasn't only shown consistency at the plate, but also in the field. Starting at second base through the Gophers' first 14 games, she has only one error and a .974 fielding percentage. Partain's defensive abilities were highlighted in the bottom of the sixth in a 1-1 game against Baylor. She made a diving play on a ground ball at second, flipping it from her glove to shortstop Carlie Brandt for Minnesota's last out of the inning. The play made SportsCenter Top-10 and helped the Gophers force the game into extra innings.
"I knew there was two outs, so I knew if there was any ball in play the runner would be going pretty hard," Partain said. "I just dove and tried to flip it as fast as I could and luckily Carlie came across."
While the Gophers would go on to lose 2-1 to Baylor in extras, they bounced back on Sunday with their second victory over Tulsa on the weekend. The win put the Minnesota at 8-6 on the season, two games above .500 in a treacherous nonconference schedule for a team that head coach Jamie Trachsel says is still finding its identity. As the Gophers look to find that identity, Partain, a senior and leader on the team, has been impressed with her younger teammates, who have embraced the team's culture.
"We have a lot of upperclassmen and we don't really have so many underclassmen in our lineup, so I think having them perform is awesome," Partain said. "It's just been really exciting to watch them grow and really buy into the process of everything we believe in on our team."
Prior to the start of the season, Trachsel challenged the Gophers to embrace the rising expectations for the team following its first ever appearance in the Women's College World Series.
"Even for our returners, [we want] to see how they handle, embrace the expectations from last year and in their own individual goals along with our team," Trachsel said.
After Minnesota's first three weekends to play, it's evident Partain has accepted Trachsel's challenge, building on her incredible consistency from her first three seasons.