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<b>Minnesota Gophers photo</b> Minnesota Gophers junior outfielder Heidi Carls of Villard (Minnewaska Area High School) has started 38 of the team's 39 games this season.

Carls looking for comfort zone with Gophers

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Hitting the ball has never been all that difficult for Heidi Carls. The three-time All-Area catcher from Minnewaska Area batted .410 for her career, including .493 as a senior.

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But the redshirt junior is experiencing what a hitting slump is with the Minnesota Gophers.

"Every pitcher at this level throws 65 (miles per hour) with the ball moving," she said. "It's a totally different pitching style (than high school). The smallest change of spin on the ball can make a huge difference. So it takes a lot of work to hit the ball. It's not where you just go up there and get a hit."

Carls was leading the team in hitting after 16 games with a .279 mark. Since then, the personable outfielder has not found her comfort zone in the box.

"I'm not pressing and trying to do something different each time I go up there," she said. "I really don't worry about my stats all that much. The wins are much more important to me."

The Gophers are currently 20-19 (3-1 in the Big Ten).

Carls is currently batting .190 (19-for-100) with four doubles. Her 11 RBI are fifth on the team.

"I'm really working on hitting the outside pitch," said Carls, when asked what she needs to improve on the most to get over her hitting drought. "Most pitchers throw outside to left-handers. I'm trying to sit back and wait on the pitch a little more and try to hit it the opposite way. If you try to pull and outside pitch, you're in trouble."

Still, Carls insists the hitting struggles aren't a mental thing.

"I stay positive," she remarked. "I don't carry one at bat into the next at bat. I just try to kick a bad at bat out the back door and stay fresh."

Carls was a stellar catcher in high school and holds the school record for catcher assists in a season wth 51. But she has not put the gear on in a game in her three seasons at the 'U.' She was the bullpen catcher as a freshman, then had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. She has played outfield since and has only one error this season.

"It really wasn't all that hard adjusting to outfield," she said. "Sure, I miss catching, but I like playing outfield, too."

Carls played in 22 games as a freshman, including six starts in the outfield. She started 19 games as a sophomore and has started 38 of the team's 39 games in left field this season.

The Gophers split a doubleheader against Purdue last weekend in West Lafayette, Ind.

"It was 20 degrees and snowing and we had to play a doubleheader," laughed Carls.

The Gophers are schedule to host Ohio State in a doubleheader this weekend.

Maybe with the weather warming up, so wil Carls' bat.

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