Sara's Summer in the Pros: Entry #2

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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.

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Moulton, Klucas, KochWeek 2 in Bandit Nation was a busy one! On Tuesday (June 3), we headed out to Normal, Ill. and played an exhibition game against the Normal Corn Belters professional baseball team. Sports Science videos proved to be correct as the guys struggled to put the bat on the ball from 43 feet away. I will give it to them though, they took some hacks and had fun with it. The Corn Belters brought in a men's Professional Fast Pitch pitcher to throw to us. He threw consistently 71-74 mph, which was the hardest pitching I have seen so far. He managed to hold us off the bases the first time through the order, but after making some adjustments, our bats got hot and we put up seven runs and defeated the boys, 7-0.

On Thursday night, some of my teammates and I headed to the Cubs game. It was my first visit to Wrigley Field. We sat out in the bleacher seats in the outfield that overlooked the whole field. What a fun experience! Fun fact: Wrigley Field is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year! We had a blast at the game and the Cubs came out with a W!

Friday night, we took the field for our first home series against the Akron Racers. I was excited to get another start because there were some familiar faces in the crowd! Gopher Softball alumnae Kelsey Klucas, Alissa Koch, Heidi Carls, and Whitney Erikson made the trip to watch some Bandit Softball. We got the win Friday night against Akron, but came up short in Saturday's game. During the day on Saturday, Kelsey, Alissa, Alissa's boyfriend Ian, and I, explored the Rosemont area I have been staying at and found a mini golf course. After 18 holes of mini golf in the grueling sun, Alissa was crowned the champion of the game. Kelsey, Ian, and I enjoyed our defeat with some slushies from 7-Eleven. 

To wrap up the busy week, we head back to Akron, Ohio on Sunday to gear up for our final two games of the series on Monday and Tuesday night. We will return back to Rosemont following Tuesday night's game and get back to practice Thursday and Friday before taking on the USSSA Pride on our home field Saturday and Sunday. I can't wait for another week of Bandit Softball and to bring home more wins!

Sara's Summer in the Pros: Entry #1

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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.

Photo Gallery

Now that I have had a chance to look back on our 2014 Gopher softball season, I couldn't be more proud of what we accomplished as a team this year. Some of the moments that stand out most to me were our team wins against LSU, Arizona State, Nebraska, and Michigan. Winning the B1G Tournament was incredible and it was a moment that I would give anything to go back and re-live again. Then came the regional tournament and we were able to show everyone what Gopher Softball was really about. We fought and clawed our way through regionals and earned the first super regional bid in Gopher Softball history. Although we fell short at supers, it was an incredible experience and one that we as a team will never forget. There are big things coming for the Gopher Softball program, and I couldn't be happier to have had a chance to be a part of the regrowth period.

Just 14 hours after arriving home from super regionals, I packed up my campus apartment, boarded a plane, and headed off to Chicago to start the next chapter. This new chapter included a new home, a new roommate, my new Chicago Bandits teammates, and the National Professional Fastpitch league. After my plane landed I was picked up and brought to my first Chicago Bandits practice. It was a blast getting to meet my new teammates and stepping foot on the Bandits' all-turf field for the first time. We had two team practices before getting on a bus and heading to our first games in Akron, Ohio.

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We played the Akron Racers in a four-game series--two games away and the final two games at home in a span of four days. It was weird suiting up in orange and black for the first time. I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself at first since I had been wearing maroon and gold for the past four years. I was in third relief for our first game and got to make my NPF debut in the bottom of the sixth inning when we were trailing 4-0. I will admit it, I was extremely nervous!

I threw eight pitches and recorded three groundball outs. The next day I got the start against Akron and felt a lot more comfortable on the mound. After four innings of work, I was relieved of my pitching duties. I also got to start the second game of our home series against Akron and pitched the first four innings of that game. My family was able to make the trip down to Chicago for our home series and I was grateful they got to watch me pitch--I think this was the first time in four years that my dad (Jeff) sat in his seat for two whole games! We finished our four-game series with the Akron Racers with a 3-1 record.

It is an absolute privilege to have the opportunity to extend my softball career and play for the Chicago Bandits in the NPF. My new teammates have been extremely welcoming and fun to be around. It's an honor to be able to take the field with some of the best players that have played the game. On Tuesday night, we will play an exhibition game against a men's baseball team and we have another two-game home series this weekend against Akron. I am excited for what is in store for this summer and I can't wait to challenge myself and grow as a softball player at the professional level.

NCAA Softball Travel Blog: So Long, Seattle

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SEATTLE, WASH. -- Seattle is a great city, and it's been a nice place for Minnesota's first NCAA Regional appearance since 2003. It's been a fun experience for this team to compete at the Seattle Regional, and the Golden Gophers showed that they can compete with any team at this level.

This regional, as most do, had four teams with great pitchers, and junior right-hander Sara Moulton stood out by striking out 29 batters in three games to run her final season total to 308. A First Team All-Great Lakes Region and First Team All-Big Ten selection this season, Moulton went 32-12 this season, and she gives the Gophers the key ingredient they'll need to make a return to a regional during her senior season in 2014.

Minnesota loses catcher Kari Dorle and first baseman/designated player Alex Davis, and both will be missed. Dorle has been a rock behind the plate for the Gophers, as she started 214 of 216 possible games over the past four years. Davis and Dorle each finish their careers with 23 home runs, and Davis was recently named to the Big Ten's All-Tournament Team.

But the future of this program is bright, as the vast majority of this team's offensive production and all of its pitching returns for next season. The Gophers have combined to hit 101 home runs over the past two years, and Minnesota has won 30-plus games in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 2004, when it ended a nine-year stretch of 30 or more victories per season.

Head coach Jessica Allister has returned the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament after a nine-year absence and has built the foundation of a program that has the potential to have sustained success for several years.

It's tough to put a wrap on such a fun season, but only one team in the NCAA Tournament gets to end its season with a win. This season has truly been a journey. Of Minnesota's 55 games, 49 were played outside of Minneapolis. That's a testament to the strength and resiliency of this program. It doesn't matter where they play, these Gophers are able to focus on the task at hand -- competing hard, giving it their best effort, and more often than not, winning the game.

So long, Seattle.

NCAA Softball Travel Blog: Video of Wednesday's Fun

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SEATTLE -- Here's an awesome video of what the team was up to on Wednesday. Michael Kyllo-Kittleson works her magic once again! This is so much fun to watch, and it shows you some of the things I wrote about below.

NCAA Softball Travel Blog: Pike Place Market

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SEATTLE -- Following today's practice, the team went back to the hotel for a quick stop before heading off for a fun afternoon at Pike Place Market.

All but a few players were able to make the trip, and it was a perfect afternoon for wandering around and checking out all the fresh produce and seafood stands, as well as the various artists who sell their goods. It's such a cool area, located on Pike Hill that leads down to the waterfront of Elliott Bay.

We arrived at 1:00 p.m., and the team broke up into several groups. We decided to meet back where the bus dropped us off at 4:00 p.m., so that gave us plenty of time to check things out.

The group I was with included the coaching staff of Jessica Allister, Jessica Merchant, Piper Ritter and Dannie Skrove, as well as certified athletic trainer Jaime Hall, and student manager Tom Schreder, who completed his final test as an undergraduate student today! Congrats, Tom!

We immediately walked to the market where they toss the fish, and were entertained by their antics, as they showed off for the large crowds that gather to watch. Dannie even convinced one of the guys to toss a fish for her.

I didn't get to see this, and apparently there's video of it (thanks, Michael Kyllo-Kittleson!), but both Kaitlyn and Ty were allowed to catch and toss a fish! Hopefully, we'll be able to post that video for you soon.

While we were at that market, Coach Allister asked one of the guys for his recommendation for a great place to get some seafood for lunch, and he recommended a place called Etta's. Let's just say the guy knew what he was talking about, because it was fantastic! Most of us ordered fish and chips, with fresh cod, and the majority of us also ordered a cup of clam chowder, which was delicious! I've attached a pic of my plate in the pictures below -- not the healthiest choice, but who cares?

After lunch, we all walked down to the waterfront and checked out the amazing scenery of the snow-covered mountains on the horizon, with the beautiful bay and surrounding hills all around. It is so scenic.

Our group then split up, with the coaches deciding to head back up the hill to a grassy area near where the bus dropped us, and Dannie, Jaime, Tom and myself deciding to look for ice cream on the pier where there's a ferris wheel. We found a place with home made ice cream -- I had the odd combination of coffee caramel and banana. Those are two flavors I could not resist. For me, any time there's coffee ice cream, I'm in. Both flavors were great, but in hindsight, I'd go for two scoops of the coffee caramel.

After getting our ice cream, we walked back up the stairs to 1st Street, and eventually made our way back to the street where we started. I made one more purchase, stopping to buy a coffee at the original Starbucks, and then found most of the team hanging out on the grassy area where the coaches were sitting.

Many among us bought fruit from the farmer's market, and everyone seemed to have had a great afternoon enjoying life in one of Seattle's most famous hangouts. Today was a chance to have fun. Tomorrow, it's all about softball!

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SEATTLE -- Today, the team had breakfast at the hotel, and then headed to the University of Washington for its first chance to practice at Husky Softball Stadium.

The Gophers began by hitting in the Neil Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility located adjacent to the softball field. It's a very nice indoor practice area for several sports. The Gophers spent an hour inside.

Minnesota then spent a little more than an hour practicing on the field at picturesque Husky Softball Stadium, and several players hit bombs that made a loud clank when they cleared the outfield wall and landed in the aluminum bleachers. It's a great location, and Washington has a proud softball history that includes a National Championship during 2009.

Below are some more pictures of the facility from this morning. The football stadium, which is undergoing a $300 million renovation, sits directly behind the softball stadium.

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NCAA Softball Travel Blog: Arrival in the Emerald City

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SEATTLE, WASH. -- Weeeeeeeeee're heeeeeeeerrrrrre!

The Golden Gophers have officially arrived in beautiful Seattle, Wash., or "The Emerald City," as it's known. Minnesota took a chartered flight on Sun Country Airlines early this morning, and we landed around 9:30 a.m. PT. The flight was smooth, and it was fun to see the Cascade Mountains and all the evergreens and picturesque scenery around the Seattle area as the flight descended.

With a charter, we were able to bypass the terminals, etc., and there was a bus waiting for us on the tarmac.As soon as our luggage was loaded directly from the plane to the bus, we drove to breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe, and we drove past Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field (amateur pictures below) on the way.

Within five minutes of arriving at our hotel, which is close to the UW campus, several players and staff members headed off to walk to the University Village shopping area. It's a very cool outdoor mall with lots of high-end retailers and specialty stores to go along with typical mall favorites like Gap, Eddie Bauer and Banana Republic.

A majority of the players headed directly to Lulu's, and were very excited. Tom, the student manager, and I found the "man area," which had a nice leather chair and a book by former Washington football coach Don James about "what it means to be Husky." That made me laugh...not at Coach James, but just that it was there in the middle of Lulu's.

This afternoon, the team will practice at Seattle University, and then we're headed to dinner in the Pike Place Market area. It's fun to be here, and to experience a little of Seattle before it's time to focus on the task at hand for all the players. Hope some of you are going to be able to join in us in the Pacific Northwest.

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NCAA Softball Travel Blog: Media Stars

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- This afternoon, the team practiced at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium for the last time this week before it departs for Seattle on Wednesday. Prior to practice at 2:30 p.m., head coach Jessica Allister and several players took part in interviews with members of the local media.

All four major television stations -- FOX 9 News, KARE-11, KSTP-5 and WCCO-4 -- were there, as well as Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Mike Grimm.

For me, one of the best rewards on days like today is to hear the positive feedback from the media personalities about how poised and well-spoken the members of this team are. Dawn Mitchell of FOX 9, in particular, was impressed with how all of the players she interviewed seemed very comfortable in front of the camera.

"Sometimes, a player will have a great personality, but they tense up when they get in front of the camera and the interview doesn't turn out as well as you'd like it," Mitchell said. "I was so impressed with all of the girls on this team, and we got a great sound bite from each one of them."

Some of the players who did interviews expressed a bit of anxiety to me about going in front of the cameras. It's not something we regularly get to do. I just told them to relax and explained that the questions were all going to be about softball, which is something they definitely know how to talk about, so there was no need to worry.

In the end, these Gophers did just fine. Just call them media stars.

NCAA Softball Travel Blog: The Stage is Set

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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- For the first time since 2003, the University of Minnesota softball team will compete at an NCAA Regional.

The Gophers learned the thrilling news on Sunday night, as Minnesota received a coveted at-large berth into the field of 64 teams that have a chance to advance to a Super Regional and eventually make it to the NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. Minnesota will travel to Seattle, Wash., on Wednesday to play in the Seattle Regional at the University of Washington's Husky Stadium (pictured above).

Minnesota (35-17) is the third seed among the four teams in Seattle, and it will open play on Friday against second-seeded Hawai'i (43-11), the champion of the Big West Conference. The other game on Friday pits host Washington (38-15) against Portland State (25-29).

We're hoping this blog will become your go-to site for a fun, behind-the-scenes look at what the Golden Gophers are up to for the remainder of this season. This is not where you'll find a recap story or stats. Those will remain where you typically find them. This is where you'll find pictures and a brief story about the team's dinner at a nice restaurant, or some details about a practice, or fun tidbits and stories about what the team is up to during its trip to Seattle and, hopefully, beyond.

The stage is set. The Gophers have been working hard to reach this point since they began practicing and doing offseason workouts last fall. Minnesota is ready to throw its hat in the ring and give its best effort to advance as far as it can. This is the postseason. It's a whole new ballgame. Time to shine.

Blog: Koch and Skrove Go Dutch (July 28)

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We can't believe that it will be two months this Saturday! We know it has been awhile since we have blogged, so we thought we would update you guys on a few of the fun things we have done since we went to Paris.

We are on break from ball they call it the "stop". Last weekend, we played our last two games against one of the teams in the top of our class, the Amsterdam Pirates. We got rained out on Saturday, so we played them on Sunday (felt like we were at school again waiting out the rain). The games were close, but we ended up losing them both. The games will pick up again on August 18th. They have this stop period because it is a busy time with everyone going on holiday (vacation). We will still have practice, and if we are not traveling we will go to those.

Two of our teammates took us to Giethoorn a few weeks ago. It is a very unique village because it is surrounded by canals and a lake. It has about 2,620 inhabitants and is unique with its bridges and waterways. To paint a picture for you it is called "The Venice" of Holland because of the canals, characteristic wooden bridges, and the little red-covered farm houses. For the people living in the houses on the canals, they get to and from town by their boats. We took a boat tour and rented what they call a "whisper boat". These are open, little boats with a silent motor which is electrical driven by a battery, hence the name whisper boats. The tour was cool, we got to drive our own boat and take our time enjoying the beautiful nature scenery, bridges, and houses.

We moved again...twice actually since we last blogged. We spent this last week at a teammate's home in Huizen (the city where our field is) while her and her family were on holiday. It was fun to have our own place again and this time we had pets! Not our dogs that we are used to and miss but two bunnies! Dannie turned into the keeper of the bunnies because she tends to wake up way before I do (Alissa), so when she woke up in the morning she gave them food and water. Meanwhile, I could sleep all day, and Dannie has energy and is awake at what I feel like is 5 a.m., when it is really around 9 or 10.

A perk of living back in Huizen was the fact that we got gym memberships from our coach so we have been going to the gym the past 3 weeks. Mind you that Coach Y has us programmed on what and how to lift, so we do not look like typical Dutch girls! But let's face it, we haven't looked like that since we got here. We enjoy doing some light lifts and cardio in the mornings.

This past weekend we enjoyed a fun "cabin" weekend. We went to an island called Terschelling with two of our teammates and two of our friends from the baseball team at our club. We decided to spend our first weekend off enjoying the sun and relaxing. It was a good time, and we finally had some nice weather for a few days in a row! The sun was out all weekend, and we took full advantage of it. The weekend started nice and early on Friday morning. Since it is holiday, the ferries were filling up fast, and we had to take one at 6:30 a.m., which meant up and driving to the harbor at 4:30 a.m. We were all dragging a little bit, but after eating breakfast and drinking much needed coffee and tea, we all started to wake up and have some energy. That afternoon we set out on a walk to find the beach, obviously the ocean is all around us, but we (accidentally) chose the longest possible walk to find the beach on the other side of the island. It was fun though, because we were on bike and walking paths through the woods. Our feet were a little sore, and we may have taken a 10 minute taxi ride back to our cabin after walking 10km, which is 6.2 miles. We didn't really prepare for that long of a walk, and we were in flip-flops so the taxi was looking really good after hanging out at the beach. Saturday, we all rented bikes and rode around the entire island and went to the beach again. That night, we made a really good dinner and had a bunch of different meats and some veggies and cooked them hibachi style. It was really good and a fun experience.

After getting back from the cabin on Sunday afternoon we moved again. We are living in Amsterdam for the next four days before we head off on our cruise! We are so excited. Friday morning, we will head to the airport and fly to Malaga, Spain. There we will be meeting my parents and board our floating home for seven days and eight nights. We will definitely have a long blog with plenty of pictures from our trip when we get back, showing and telling you all where we stopped and what we did on our boat! Dannie has never been on a cruise before, so she can't wait to leave. She got a little sea sick on the ferry, but I have assured her that the cruise boat is a lot different.

Sorry it is a short post this time, but we will definitely have plenty to say next time

Doei-

Dannie and Alissa