Jan. 30, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS – It’s just more than a week before the start of Minnesota’s 2013 softball season, and third-year head coach Jessica Allister’s team has been hard at work preparing for its season-opening weekend.
Minnesota will depart next Friday, Feb. 8, for Las Vegas, Nev., where the Golden Gophers are scheduled to play four games at UNLV’s Sportco Kick-Off Classic. It’s the second-straight year Minnesota has opened its season in Las Vegas. The Gophers went 3-1 at the tournament last year, with wins against Kent State, Weber State, and Cal State Bakersfield, and a 2-1 loss versus UNLV.
This year’s schedule at the tournament will present a challenge. Minnesota’s first three games are against teams that qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament, as well as facing UNLV on its home field. Minnesota opens play on Saturday, Feb. 9, versus DePaul and No. 18/18 Louisville. On Sunday, the Gophers will play Texas Tech and the host Rebels.
“We’re excited to travel to Las Vegas and get out on the field. As a team, we’re going to face some really good competition, including three teams that are either in the Top 25 in both national polls or are receiving votes,” Allister said. “It’s going to be a great test for us right away, and our team is working hard at practice, taking care of all the details and preparing to get out on the field and face someone else.”
Minnesota is in its third week of practice after the team reported on January 16. The first two weeks were really intensive on fundamentals – making sure the players were getting their repetitions in, both at the plate and in the field.
The past few days, Allister’s team has transitioned into more scrimmage situations, where the team faces game-like scenarios where players are required to react quickly and make plays.
The Gophers are coming off a season in which they went 31-22, which included a mark of 9-5 against teams that made the NCAA Tournament. With nine of 10 starters returning, the team has high expectations for what it can accomplish during the 2013 season.
But the early-season competition will be tough. On the first day of the season, Minnesota faces a DePaul team that was 36-22 in 2012, while 18th-ranked Louisville was 55-5. It won’t get much easier on the second day of the tournament, as Texas Tech is coming off a 41-17 season, and UNLV is tough to beat at home.
Minnesota’s top returners include Third-Team All-Big Ten selections Sara Moulton and Tyler Walker. A junior right-handed pitcher, Moulton was 25-14 with a 1.52 earned run average and 302 strikeouts last season, while Walker batted .380 with 46 runs scored and nine home runs during her freshman campaign in 2012.
For ticket information regarding any of Minnesota’s home games this season, please call the Gopher Athletic Ticket Office at 612.624.8080 or 1.800.UGOPHER, or visit the links on this site or at www.mygophersports.com.
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