Jan. 14, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS -- Fans of the University of Minnesota softball team can officially start to think spring on Wednesday, as third-year head coach Jessica Allister will take her Golden Gophers through their first practice in preparation for the 2013 season.
The team is scheduled to open with speed testing in the indoor facility at 8:00 a.m., followed by group hitting and pitching drills from 9:00 a.m. to Noon, and a full team practice from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. Minnesota will continue will full-day practice schedules through Monday, Jan. 21, before the team starts spring semester classes on Jan. 22.
Minnesota heads into this season with expectations for another successful campaign, and it has loads of confidence following a great offseason training program and back-to-back 31-win campaigns. The Golden Gophers return eight starting position players, including Third Team All-Big Ten infielder Tyler Walker, as well as Third Team All-Big Ten pitcher Sara Moulton from last year's team that finished 31-22 overall and 10-14 in the Big Ten.
Moulton, a junior from Eagan, Minn. (Eagan HS), was 25-14 with a 1.52 earned run average, 30 complete games and 302 strikeouts during 2012. Only eight returning starting pitchers had more strikeouts than Moulton's 2012 total, and she is the leading Big Ten hurler in that category. Additionally, Moulton's 25 wins last year ties for 21st among returning pitchers in NCAA Division I, and she led the Big Ten in ERA and hits allowed per seven innings (4.73).
Offensively, Minnesota players combined to hit 53 home runs last year, and 52 of those (98.1 percent) were hit by players who return this season. Only Arkansas (98.3 percent) has a higher percentage of home runs hit by returning players in 2013, and only 10 teams have returning players who combined to hit more than Minnesota's 52 round-trippers.
Walker, a sophomore from San Jose, Calif. (Valley Christian HS), earned all-conference accolades after batting .380 with 46 runs scored, 29 runs batted in, nine home runs, 16 stolen bases, and a .614 slugging percentage as a freshman.
Among the other offensive standouts returning are sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Richardson (.338 BA, .625 SLG, 39 R, 38 RBI, 16 2B, 10 HR) and senior catcher Kari Dorle (.268 BA, .410 OBP, 47 RBI, 25 R, 10 HR). A native of Phoenix, Ariz. (Sandra Day O'Connor HS), Richardson ranked 24th nationally in doubles per game last year, while Dorle (North St. Paul, Minn. / North St. Paul HS) averaged 0.89 RBI per game. They became the first pair of Minnesota players with double-digit home runs in a season since 1999.
Minnesota's defense is also strong, as the Golden Gophers led the Big Ten with a .970 fielding percentage last year.
The Gophers' schedule is not easy. Minnesota opens its season by facing three 2012 NCAA Tournament teams - DePaul, Louisville and Texas Tech -- at the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas during Feb. 9-10. Louisville is coming off a season in which it finished 55-5.
Minnesota's 34th game this season will be the 2,000th in the program's history. It's set to take place during the middle game of the Gophers' three-game series at Northwestern on March 30. The Gophers own a win-loss record of 1,105-857-4 since the program played its first game in 1974.
For ticket information, call the Gopher Ticket Office at 612.624.8080 or 1.800.UGOPHER, or visit www.mygophersports.com.
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