Former Minnesota pitcher Piper Ritter is in her eleventh season with the Gophers as pitching coach, having developed three of the top hurlers in Minnesota softball history in Brianna Hassett, Sara Moulton and Sara Groenewegen.
Ritter guided Groenewegen to Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Pitcher of the Year honors in 2014, making the White Rock, B.C. native the third player in conference history to win both awards in the same season. Groenewegen finished the season with the nation's top strikeouts-per-seven-innings rate at 11.6 and was a top-10 finalist for the inaugural NFCA Freshman of the Year Award. She helped Groenewegen become the third player in conference history to win Big Ten Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year awards in her career after another solid season in 2015. Groenewegen was named a NFCA Second-Team All-American and finished the season with an ERA of 1.67, best in the Big Ten. The 2015 Gophers had more strikeouts than any other season and posted a team ERA of 2.34.
In 2016 Groenewegen again was dominant in the circle under Ritter's guidance. She went 31-7 with a 2.03 ERA and 336 strikeouts. She threw three no-hitters including a perfect game against FAU. For the second straight year she earned NFCA All-American honors being named to the First Team and earned three national player of the week awards and five B1G Pitcher of the Week accolades.
Groenewegen went on to become the first Gopher to ever win All-American honors in three seasons after an impressive 2017 season. She went 31-4 with a 0.63 ERA and 307 strikeouts. The ERA was the second lowest in the NCAA and second lowest ever recorded in Gophers history. Groenewegen graduated as the all-time Gophers strikeout lead with 1,214 in her career. Besides Groenewegen, Ritter also mentored freshman Amber Fiser to a strong freshman season. Fiser went 14-0 with a 1.68 ERA and 83 strikeouts.
Ritter coached the Gophers to the third lowest ERA in the NCAA in the 2017 season with a 1.19 ERA as a staff. With the success in the circle the Maroon and Gold went a program best 56-5 overall. They broke a record for longest win streak to start a season with 19 and longest win streak ever with 26 straight. Prior to the 2017 season the Gophers were never ranked in the top-10 in either major polls. They reached No. 1 in the USA Today/NFCA Cnoaches poll and No. 3 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. They won their first regular season Big Te title since 1991 and their third Big Ten tournament championship in four years. Along with head coach Jessica Allister and associate head coach Jessica Merchant Ritter was part of the NFCA Great Lakes Regional Coaching Staff of the Year in 2017.
Ritter helped Minnesota make a dramatic turnaround by mentoring Moulton, who left Minnesota with program records for wins, appearances (178), innings pitched (1,017), complete games (108), no-hitters (five) shutouts (47), and at the time strikeouts (1,184). Moulton went on to earn NFCA Second Team All-America honors after being selected fifth overall in the 2013 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft. She was a four-time All-Big Ten honoree, a top-25 finalist for the 2014 NFCA National Player of the Year Award, and was a top-30 finalist for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award.
As a staff, Moulton, Groenewegen, and Nikki Anderson set single-season school records for shutouts with 22 and strikeouts with 487, both marks that put the Gophers in the top three nationally in the 2014 season. Minnesota went on to post its winningest season in 15 years, capture the Big Ten Tournament title, and seal its first-ever NCAA super regional berth, posting a team ERA of 2.00.
In 2013, Moulton set Minnesota's single-season wins record with a 32-12 record, and tied another record with 14 shutouts. The All-Big Ten First team selection threw two consecutive no-hitters during the season. Moulton led the Big Ten in ERA (1.57), strikeouts (308), wins (32), starts (45) and innings pitched (275.5).
Ritter has also been instrumental to Minnesota's success in the classroom, with 61 student-athletes earning Academic All-Big Ten honors over the past five seasons.
Ritter also tutored Hassett to one of the best seasons in program history in 2009. Hassett set program records by racking up 414 strikeouts and pitching 39 complete games. Her strikeout mark was more than 100 better than the previous record, set in 2004 by Ritter. Hassett also spent 307.0 innings in the circle in 2009, becoming just the second Golden Gopher ever to pitch over 300 innings in a season. Hassett thrived in two seasons under Ritter, finishing among the top-five in six career pitching categories, including a school record 88 complete games.
Ritter also guided Hassett to a record-breaking 2008 season in her first year in charge of Minnesota's pitching staff. Hassett went 21-8 with a 1.82 earned run average that season. At the time, Hassett's 276 strikeouts were the third-most in a single season in Minnesota history, trailing only Ritter's totals of 311 during 2003 and 301 during 2002.
During her four-year playing career with the Gophers (2001-04), Ritter became one of the most accomplished pitchers in program history. She left the university with career records for strikeouts (1,122), innings pitched (921.1), games (173), wins (88), shutouts (33), and complete games (85). Her career strikeout mark ranked third all-time in the Big Ten and 14th in NCAA history. Ritter threw a record-tying five career no-hitters for the Gophers, including two perfect games.
Ritter earned All-Big Ten honors all four years at Minnesota, including a first-team selection in 2003 when she posted 11 shutouts and what was then a single-season record 311 strikeouts. She also garnered NFCA All-Mideast Region accolades three times during her career and led the Gophers to the NCAA Regional Tournament two times (2002 and 2003).
Prior to joining the staff at Minnesota, Ritter served as pitching coach at the University of Northern Colorado for the 2006 season and was an assistant at North St. Paul High School during 2005. After graduating from Minnesota in 2004 with a degree in kinesiology, she played and coached for one season in the Netherlands. Ritter also played one season in the National Pro Fastpitch League for the Texas Thunder, posting a 3-0 record with a 0.64 ERA.
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