Softball Summer Blog #1: Erica Meyer

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So far, my summer has been pleasant. I have kept myself busy but have also factored in time to relax with my friends and family! I have spent most of my time working out for softball, interning in the office of Student-Athlete Development on campus, and coaching my sister's softball team.

On a typical day, I wake up and go lift weights with some of my teammates at Ridder Arena. Our weights coach, Sara Wiley, has set up a lifting program designed to kick our butts and make us stronger before we return to school in the fall! After lifting, we usually head over to our field to hit off tees in the batting cages. 

The next portion of my day is spent at Bierman Field Athletic Building where I am an intern in the office of Student-Athlete Development. As an intern, my main job is planning the 2014 HopeDay Festival. On HopeDay, about 500 of our student-athletes volunteer to put on a carnival for the HopeKids and their families. Here, the kids can play kickball, get their faces painted, go on pony rides and participate in many other fun activities. Each year, about 1,500 members of the HopeKids organization attend the event. HopeKids is an organization that provides fun activities and events free of charge to families who have children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. HopeDay is just one of the many volunteering events our student-athletes attend throughout the year.

M Club Golf.jpg

Another part of my job as an intern is volunteering at the various outreach events that we offer. I volunteered at the "M" Club golf outing for former student-athletes. I worked a chipping contest on one of the holes and got to hang out with some softball alums, including Danielle Skrove and Briana Hassett (pictured left). I also got to play in the Playworks Kickball Tournament with other Gopher athletes, including my teammate Hannah Granger (pictured above). Our team ended up winning the whole tournament and former Gopher kicker Chris Hawthorne won the contest for longest kick. Volunteering at these events has been a very rewarding experience.

Finally, in the evenings, I spend my time coaching my sister's softball team. She plays for the 18U Mounds View Mustangs. Throughout the summer, our team will play about 20 league games and compete in four tournaments. In our last tournament, we played two games against my future teammate, Kylie Stober. Watching her pitch made me excited that she is going to become a Gopher. The rest of my time is spent hanging out with my friends and family on the lake and playing fetch with my puppy. As I write, she is begging me to go outside with her, and I can't resist any longer. I am off to play! I hope you all are enjoying your summer as much as I am!

Skjei Excited to Return in 2014-15

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Go Gophers! TopTen
Go Gophers!Brady Skjei at the 2014 Hockey City Classic at TCF Bank Stadium.
Go Gophers!

MINNEAPOLIS ( - Gopher Hockey defenseman Brady Skjei has confirmed he will return to the University of Minnesota for his junior season in  2014-15. 

The Lakeville, Minn., native is currently participating at the New York Rangers Prospect Development Camp at Madison Square Garden Training Center and informed the National Hockey League (NHL) organization of his decision on Thursday.

"I can't wait to come back and build off of what we accomplished last year," Skjei said. "It's a new season and a new team, but I'm excited about our potential." 

Skjei has helped Minnesota to two-straight regular-season conference titles since joining the team in 2012-13 including the inaugural Big Ten title in 2013-14 while the Gophers also advanced to the NCAA national championship game last season. 

The defenseman posted career highs across the board in his sophomore campaign with 14 points, six goals and eight assists in 40 games while also earning All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and Academic All-Big Ten honors. For his career, Skjei has tallied 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 76 games for the Gophers. 

Skjei has also been part of a defensive unit that has ranked third nationally and first in its conference for goals allowed per game in each of the last two seasons.

A product of the U.S. National Development Team Program (USNDTP) in Ann Arbor, Mich., Skjei missed one game in 2013-14 to compete at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden alongside Gophers teammate Hudson Fasching and under head coach Don Lucia. 

The 19th Gopher to be selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, Skjei was selected 28th overall by the Rangers in 2012. 

-Pride On Ice-

M.A.G.I.C. Weekly Update (6/30/14)

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Pitino Blog: Early Summer Update

Good morning Gopher Fans,

Hope everyone is having a great summer like we are.  Personally it has been a lot of fun welcoming my two-month-old Jack into this world. Jill, Ava, Bernie and I are extremely fortunate and lucky.

This summer has been much different than last year.  The culture has been introduced and expectations for how to operate on a daily basis have been laid out. That is always the toughest part of taking over a new job. These next few months are all about taking the next step as a team and a program.  We have had a few weeks of individual instruction so far as well as workouts in the weight room.  

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Go Gophers!
Head coach Richard Pitino gives his thoughts on the state of the Gophers.

This summer I have chosen to stay away and watch from afar.  This gives my assistant coaches an opportunity to grow as coaches because when the season starts, I am the main voice everyone hears.  It also gives our players an opportunity to get some much needed space from the pressures of being coached by the head coach.  It's a long season for everyone.  My hope is that when we start back up in the fall, our guys will be fresh and eager to get back to work.

First Impressions.....

Carlos Morris- Has put on significant weight since he has gotten here and still has a ways to go in the weight room.  I have full faith that he, with our strength coach Shaun Brown, will be ready to compete at the Big Ten level.  He will need to come in and make an immediate impact. "Squirrel" is a very good ball handler and passer; he can get to the basket and make others better on the court.  There's no reason why he can't make a difference from day one.

Nate Mason- Pleasant surprise!  Think Andre Hollins, Gopher fans - very similar games.  Nate has a great disposition on the court.  He seems unfazed at all times.  He does a little bit of everything well and can
play multiple positions.  I am very excited about his potential.

Josh Martin- I watched him work out yesterday for the first time of the summer because we have been resting him due to a minor knee issue (I repeat, MINOR).  One word when describing his athletic ability... WOW.  Josh has an infectious personality on the court and is always encouraging his teammates.  He has a chance to be a very, very good player.  Fan favorite!

Zach Lofton- The sky is the limit for Zach.  He has all the tools and talent to be a big-time guard.  Phenomenal athlete, great length and has the ability to get his shot off at any time.  We need him to be ready next year.

Gaston Diedhiou and Bakary Konate-  Both guys are working hard physically as well as academically to finish up strong.  We expect both to be on campus and ready to go come the fall.  Very excited to coach both student-athletes.  Phenomenal kids!

Returners- Who has made the biggest jump over the summer?  This award goes to Daquein McNeil.  That small forward spot will be a fun competition.  I really like the direction Day Day is headed.

My staff and I hit the road on Wednesday to go find the next great Gopher. Recruiting has been going very well.  Year one was good, I hope year two can be GREAT.

Hope everyone has a great 4th of July!  Go Gophers!  

Richard Pitino


NHL: Bickel Signs with Minnesota Wild

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Stu Bickel

MINNEAPOLIS ( - The Minnesota Wild have signed Gopher Hockey alum Stu Bickel to a one-year, two-way contract, the National Hockey League (NHL) organization announced on Tuesday evening. 

The Chanhassen, Minn., native had eight points (one goal, seven assists) in 24 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2013-14 and appeared in 67 games for the New York Rangers from 2011-13 with nine assists. The defenseman also appeared in 18 playoff games for the Rangers in 2011-12. 

Bickel skated for the Gophers during the 2007-08 season and notched seven points (one goal, six assists). 

Vantastic: Vanek Signs with Wild

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Go Gophers!Thomas Vanek
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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Welcome back, Thomas Vanek!
The Gophers All-American and nine-year NHL veteran signed a three-year contract with the Minnesota Wild, the National Hockey League (NHL) organization announced on Tuesday, just hours after the free agency period officially began. 

"Thomas is an elite offensive talent who showed a strong desire to play in Minnesota," Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said in a release. "We are excited to welcome him to our organization."

In 663 regular-season NHL games, the Vienna, Austria native has tallied 556 points while his 277 career goals are the eighth most among all NHL players since the forward joined the league in 2006-06. At 6-for-2 and 217 pounds, Vanek has also added 30 points and 20 goals in 53 career playoff games. The fifth overall selection by Buffalo in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Vanek has spent the majority of his career with the Sabres organization before moving twice last season - first to the New York Islanders and later to the Montreal Canadiens. Between the three teams, Vanek totaled 68 points and 27 goals in 78 games last season. 

"It doesn't get much better for me right now; in the end, we made it work," Vanek told Sportsnet. "What's more exciting is how good the team is...It's a team that is very deep, and I know I can add to that."

Prior to signing a professional contract, Vanek recorded 113 points and 57 goals in 83 career games over two seasons at the University of Minnesota. Vanek led the Gophers in scoring both years and helped the Gophers capture the 2003 NCAA title, having scored game-winning goals over both Michigan in the semifinal and New Hampshire in the championship game. The forward was named the Frozen Four MVP for the performance and went on to earn Second Team All-America honors the following season. 

According to Mike Russo of the Star Tribune, Vanek's deal with the Wild is for $19.5 million over three years while the Austrian will wear No. 26 as he did as a member of the Gophers.

The signing of Vanek now gives the Wild three Gopher Hockey alums as the forward joins Keith Ballard and Erik Haula on Minnesota's roster. Vanek and Ballard were teammates for two seasons at the University of Minnesota (2002-03, 2003-04) including the Gophers' national championship in 2003. 

Sara's Summer in the Pros: Entry #3

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Sara Moulton, a senior on the Minnesota softball team in 2014, left the Gophers as one of the most decorated players in program history after helping lead to the team to its first Big Ten Tournament title in 15 years, as well as its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. Upon completion of her collegiate career, the Eagan, Minn. native signed on to play professionally with the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch league. The Bandits selected Moulton with the fifth overall pick in the NPF Collegiate Draft in March. Throughout the summer, Moulton will document her first season in the professional ranks.

 Updated Photo Gallery | Entry #1 | Entry #2

Tatum, Booker, Varsho, Moulton, Taylor.jpg The past few weeks in Bandit nation have been super busy! Last week, we traveled by bus to Pennsylvania and took on the PA Rebellion in a two-game match up. We ended up splitting with the Rebellion. It was a fun trip and I got to play against some familiar Big Ten faces! Andie Varsho from Purdue and Tatum and Taylor Edwards from Nebraska are members of the Rebellion. I look forward to matching up against them and getting to spend more time with them later this summer.

We had a few days off when we returned from Pennsylvania, so a few of the girls and I decided to take a road trip to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals take on the Phillies at Busch Stadium. Estela Pinon's boyfriend, Ken Giles, is a rookie pitcher on the Phillies and hooked us up with great seats! We also got a chance to go down onto the field after the game and take some pictures (see the updated gallery). 

Earlier this week we hosted two days of Bandit clinics. It was fun to have a chance to instruct and give back to the game that has done so much for us. The young girls were determined and worked hard! On Monday after the clinic, we played our second Battle of The Sexes game against The Windy City Thunderbolts baseball team. The Thunderbolts came out fired up, but ended up falling to us 8-0 and only managed to produce one hit on offense. The Bandit pitching staff dominated the boys once again!

This past Wednesday we flew to Round Rock, Texas to compete in a four game series against the USSSA Pride. We played all of our games at the Dell Diamond baseball stadium, which is home to the Round Rock Express minor league baseball team. It was a beautiful stadium and the weather in Texas did not disappoint! We ended up splitting the series 2-2 with the Pride.

It's crazy that my summer with the Bandits is already almost halfway over! I am having the time of my life meeting new people and getting to experience new things every day.

My roommate, former Big Ten/Northwestern foe Emily Allard, and I are getting along great! We have learned the past month that we have more in common than just a four year B1G rivalry. She's also learned that living with me comes with cold temperatures, as many of my Gopher teammates learned while rooming with me on the road.

Looking ahead, we have two months of jam-packed softball coming up! The next two weekends, we host the Akron Racers and the Rebellion! I look forward to playing in front of our home crowd and I am expecting to see some familiar Minnesota faces in Chicago down the road! 

Summer Roundup: June 30

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Here are your weekly updates on current and former Gophers playing summer ball across the country:

Major Leagues

*Glen Perkins earned his 20th save of the season by striking out the side in an inning of work at Texas yesterday. He know ranks
rd in the American League in saves. The MLB All-Star teams will be unveiled July 5th, Perkins has put together a good enough season to hear his name called.

Minor Leagues

*Nate Hanson is headed to AAA, the Rochester Red Wings called the third baseman up. He has played in two games, but has gone hitless in seven at-bats.

*Alec Crawford made two more appearances for the Grand Junction Rockies. He pitched a total of 2.2 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with a strikeout.

*In back-to-back days, Mike Kvasnicka (New Britian Rock Cats) hit a double and drove in a run. In his past 10 games, Mike is hitting
.387 with seven RBI.

*Seth Rosin (Reading Fightin Phils) made two relief appearances, allowing a run. He is now 2-5 with a 4.91 ERA on the season, in the minors.

*Augusta GreenJackets pitcher DJ Snelten made two appearances this past week. On Friday, DJ pitched 4.0 innings allowing one run while striking out three.


Cape Cod League

*In 3.0 innings pitched, Lance Thonvold (Hyannis Harbor Hawks) struck out four batters. In 10.2 innings pitched on the season, Lance owns a 0.84 ERA.


Northwoods League

*Thanks to a 3-for-3 effort on Sunday, Michael Handel (Madison Mallards) upped his batting average to .328.

*Dan Motl's Willmar Stingers club wrapped up the first half title this past weekend. On the season, Motl is hitting .235 with 7 RBI in 81 at-bats.

*Connor Schaefbauer (Rochester Honkers) had a nice weekend. The infielder had back-to-back three hit games on Saturday and Sunday. He is now batting .278 in 54 at-bats this season. Outfielder Jordan Smith also had a pair of multi-hit performances this week. In addition, he plated two RBI on Sunday.

*Troy Traxler played in a 15-inning affair for the Wisconsin Woodchucks on Thursday. He went 4-for-8, scoring two runs.

American Legion

*Incoming freshman Alex Boxwell has 42 at-bats for his Coon Rapids Legion team. He is batting .476 with 13 RBI on the season.

Summer Roundup Archives

June 23
 June 16
June 9

Complete list of current/incoming Gophers on summer teams


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Gopher alum and University of Minnesota graduate Tori Dixon is making a name for herself right away on the international scene. After graduating from the Gopher volleyball team last year, Dixon signed a professional contract to play for Rabita Baku in Azerbaijan before she returned to the United States. After playing in the Pan American Cup, Dixon was recently named the tournament's best blocker.

The Minnesota Daily recently featured the Gopher alum, check out her story here.

Gopher Volleyball Update (6/23/14)

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