Gophers Trek to Vegas for Four

Feb. 13, 2014

Logo   (24) Minnesota at the Easton Desert Classic
Date Friday, Feb. 14-Sunday, Feb. 16
Location Eller Media Stadium/Stephanie Lynn Craig Park, Las Vegas, Nev.
Last Meeting UNLV: Won 4-0 (Feb. 10, 2013)
Boise State: Lost 2-1 (8) (March 15, 2012)
BYU: Won 5-2 (March 15, 2007)
Florida: First meeting
Opponent Previews UNLV | Boise State | BYU | Florida
Live Stats Tournament Central

Following a 5-0 weekend at the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, La., the 24th-ranked Minnesota softball team will head west to Las Vegas to compete in UNLV’s Easton Desert Classic. There, the Gophers will face host UNLV Friday at 8 p.m. (CT) before playing against Brigham Young at 3:30 p.m. (CT) and Boise State 5:45 p.m. (CT) Saturday and concluding the tournament with a showdown against top-ranked Florida at 11 a.m. Sunday. 

About Last Week
The Gophers started 5-0 for the first time since their 2003 NCAA Tournament season by dispatching Murray State, then-No. 17 and Tiger Classic host LSU, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Central Arkansas, and Oklahoma State. The final four wins came via shutout, giving Minnesota four shutout wins for the first time since 2008.

About UNLV
After hosting another tournament a week ago, UNLV has gotten off to a 1-4 start, defeating UC-Davis and falling to Arkansas, Washington, Baylor, and San Diego. All losses except the one to USD were against teams that were either ranked or received votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Preseason Poll. The Rebels won 21 games a season ago and were picked to finish seventh in the Mountain West Conference in 2014. 

About BYU
The Cougars began with a 2-3 run Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah. All three of the losses were by a single run and the Cougars had the lead or tie heading into the sixth inning of all three games. Leading the charge for BYU was McKenzie St. Clair, who hit .667 with seven RBIs and two home runs. Ashley Thompson had a record of 2-0 in the circle, posting a 2.23 ERA. 

About Boise State
The Broncos come into the Easton Desert Classic with a 1-4 mark after kicking off the season with a 6-1 victory over Utah before dropping contests against Creighton, North Carolina State, Northwestern, and Oregon at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. BSU was led at the plate by Tara Glover, who hit .467 and stole five bases on five attempts on the weekend. 

About Florida
Florida enters the weekend with a 6-0 record and the nation’s top ranking in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Poll, moving up from third in the preseason poll. The Gators opened with a win over top-25 foe South Florida before earning wins over Big Ten opponents No. 4/5 Michigan and Wisconsin (twice), as well as Illinois State and Bethune-Cookman. Junior pitcher Lauren Haeger earned two wins during the week, including her first career no-hitter Sunday in Florida’s second win over the Badgers. 

Against the Field
Coming off a tournament in which Minnesota meet every team it play except one for the first time, the Gophers have competed against three of the four teams it will play in Las Vegas. Minnesota is 3-5 all-time against the host Rebels after blanking UNLV 4-0 a year ago. Saturday, the Gophers will look to improve to 4-0 against BYU and 2-1 against Boise State after the team split two games at the Broncos’ spring tournament in separate seasons. 

Hot Start in the Circle
Pitchers Sara Moulton and Sara Groenewegen both came out of the gate strong to begin the season, combining to toss 34 scoreless innings with 53 strikeouts while conceding 11 hits and 11 walks. Moulton threw for three shutout wins and racked up 32 strikeouts to earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the ninth time. 

Resetting the Records
Sara Moulton’s hot start has her moving up in the school’s record books. Her three wins a week ago got her to 88 for her career, tying her with pitching coach Piper Ritter for the most all-time. She also leads Gopher softball with 38 shutouts and 94 complete games. Her 972 career strikeouts are second-most all-time behind Ritter’s 1,122. 

100 for Allister
Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister surpassed 100 wins a week ago in Baton Rouge with the team’s 1-0 win over the host Tigers. Her ledger as the team’s head coach now stands at 103-65. She is in her fourth season. 

Walker Picks Up Where She Left Off
Leadoff hitter and starting shortstop Tyler Walker, a First Team All-Big Ten honoree in 2013, got off to a great start last weekend, posting a .429 average (6-for-14) while notching five runs and five RBI. The San Jose, Calif. native passed the 100-run mark and now has 104 in her third season. 

On the Docket
The Gophers will follow their tournament in Las Vegas with a trip out east to North Carolina next week. In Greensboro, N.C., Minnesota will take on UNCG Spartan Classic host North Carolina-Greensboro two times and will face 2013 NCAA Tournament teams Army and Hampton, as well as George Washington.