Softball Summer Blog #3: Madie Eckstrom

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Hello! I hope everyone is enjoying this amazing summer just as much as I am! This summer has been quite a busy one for me. I have been lifting, running, and hitting in order to get ready for my last season as a Gopher. Otherwise, I have been taking a human evolution class and lab and have been working two jobs. 

I feel like Im constantly running around trying to keep busy. I've been hanging out with a lot of my teammates who stayed on campus for the summer and I love being in their company. During the summer months I love to spend my free time being outside at Lake Calhoun or back home in Stillwater.

I'm currently re-reading the Harry Potter series, as I do every summer. The HP series is one of my favorites and I encourage all of my teammates to read the books, though many shake me off. One of my very good friends, Adrianna Nora, who is also is a student-athlete, is someone I also like to spend a lot of my time with. Our seasons are opposite so we do not get to spend much time together in the school year. 

The various jobs I've been a part of consist of being a representative for Gatorade during Minnesota summer camps, working some summer softball clinics, and working with kids in a fun zone during large events such as USA Volleyball and the World Cup Soccer tournament. These experiences have allowed me many new connections and some very fun memories. 

I've enjoyed the summer but I am so excited to get back to softball and get down to business. With the way our last season ended, I'm beyond confident this upcoming season will be just as, if not more successful. With how hard my fellow teammates are working this summer I know know this team will be capable of anything. I am also excited to have some new faces come to Gopher Softball. I'm sure they will add some great talent to this team!

Previous Blogs:
Softball Summer Blog #1: Erica Meyer
Softball Summer Blog #2: Erika Smyth

Sara's Summer in the Pros:
Entry #1

Softball Summer Blog #2: Erika Smyth

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Hi Gopher Softball fans! I have had an amazing summer thus far. As a Washington native, it has been nice to see some rain this summer but nothing beats the warm sunshine we have been getting recently. I have had a fairly busy schedule throughout each week for the summer of 2014. You can either find me in the weight room, on the field, in the classroom, or in a small office in Mariucci Arena making some sales for Gopher Sports.

I hope everyone had a fun summer and great Fourth of July weekend--I know I have had an amazing time! I was lucky enough to go out on an incredible yacht on Lake Minnetonka and experience the fun of "Big Island" for the fourth. All I can say is: WOW. The houses on Lake Minnetonka are unbelievable. Thankfully, I was able to experience my great Fourth of July with some of my best friends (and fellow Gopher student-athletes) Kendal Shell, Rachel Banham, and Andre Hollins.

I'm currently taking one class this summer and working a job as a fan relations representative in the sales and services department at the University of Minnesota. Typically, I work Monday through Thursday with hours ranging from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For the most part, my job consists of answering phone calls in regards to Gopher Sports, creating up sale opportunities for season ticket holders, and handling all calls with great care and the best customer service that anyone could ever offer. I am VERY thankful that I work in an office with a great manager and supervisor and some hilarious coworkers (let's hope they all read this blog). The class that I am taking is actually called a "Field Experience" where there aren't many face-to-face meetings. This class is required in my major, business and marketing, and my job actually qualifies as my "Field Experience" for this class. By the end of summer I am required to finish and turn in a portfolio of my experiences as a fan relations representative.

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The summer is definitely special this year because a lot of my teammates were able to stay on campus. It's always great to build camaraderie over the "offseason" doing our tough workouts together. With the way Coach Y (our strength & conditioning coach, Sara Wiley) is kicking our butts this summer with her workouts, the future looks bright and buff for this team.

It has also been nice to work with Coach Allister, Coach Merchant, and Coach Ritter for the camps that have taken place on our field throughout the summer. One of my favorite things to do is work these camps for Gopher Softball and Coach Allister; nothing is better than seeing kids get better at softball. Running these camps definitely makes me miss playing and practicing on Jane Sage Cowles with the team.

Speaking of Gopher Softball withdrawals, I was happy to see the Big Ten Network replaying the Big Ten Softball Championship game this past Tuesday night. It's hard to decide what my favorite part of that incredible game was. Obviously the Sammy Macken walk-off was awesome, but I'm going to have to go with the slow-mo of Kaitlyn Richardson sprinting around the bases after her home run.

Other than that, I have a lot to look forward to for the rest of the summer. I will continue to prepare and work hard to ensure a solid senior season. I'm excited for the freshmen to get on campus so we can all get to work together and let them know the high expectations for Gopher softball next season. 


I will continue to have fun spending time with my amazing teammates. In fact, I'll be heading to the Imagine Dragons and Atmosphere All-Star Game Concert this coming weekend with Sydney Fabian, Hannah Granger, and Erica Meyer. Speaking of Bert, happy 21st birthday to my great teammate! I expect to see you all at Jane Sage Cowles stadium this coming fall!

Previous Blogs:
Softball Summer Blog #1: Erica Meyer

Sara's Summer in the Pros:
Entry #1

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.

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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!

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! 

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.

 Updated Photo Gallery | Entry #1

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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