March 1, 2012
The University of Minnesota softball team hits the road again this weekend as they travel to Athens, Georgia for the Fourth Annual Bulldog Invitational. The Gophers, who are 10-3 on the season, will face five opponents over the three-day tournament, including the host, No. 7 Georgia.
Gophers' Game Schedule
Friday, March 2
Mercer (6-7) 8 a.m.
Cleveland State (1-8) 12 p.m.
Saturday, March 3
Ohio (6-6) 8 a.m.
Georgia (12-2) 12 p.m.
Sunday, March 4
Rutgers (4-3) 8 a.m.
Leading off 2012
Minnesota has reached the 10-win checkpoint the quickest for any Gopher squad since 2003 when they also reached it in 13 games (10-2-1).
Gophers Loving the Peach State
The Maroon and Gold are 21-9 all-time when playing in the state of Georgia.
Minnesota has sprayed 17 home runs thus far this season, which leads the Big Ten Conference. Last year, the Gophers had a total of 24 four baggers. Freshman Tyler Walker and Kaitlyn Richardson are tied for the conference lead with four home runs each.
Gophers Have Mercy
The Maroon and Gold have forced the eight-run mercy rule on its opponents five times this season, which is the most since 2003. The school record for a single season is nine, which was set in 1997.
So far this season, the Gophers have the stingiest defense in the conference with allowing the fewest runs and hits. Minnesota also has also committed the fewest errors in the league at five, which gives them a fielding percentage of .987. Michigan has the Big Ten’s next best percentage at .965.
Queen of the Circle
Moulton currently ranks first in nearly all major pitching categories in the conference. The sophomore leads the Big Ten in ERA (0.56), opponent’s batting average (.128), strikeouts (85) and wins (eight). She has also allowed the fewest earned runs on the season at five.
For the first time since 1994, the Gophers opened the season with six freshmen in the starting lineup, including three that were slated into the top three spots in the batting order.
Moulton Named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week
Moulton posted a 2-1 record while throwing three complete games, including a one-hitter against James Madison. The Eagen, Minn. native recorded a 0.67 earned run average in 21 innings of work at the Carolina Classic, where she was named Co-Most Valuable Player with fellow accolade winner Eckstrom. Moulton fanned 28 batters while only allowing 10 hits on the weekend.
Eckstrom Tagged Co-Freshman of the Week
Eckstrom led Minnesota at the plate with a .545 (6-for-11) batting average and had a hit in each of the Gophers’ contests. The Stillwater, Minn. native drove in four runs and finished with a .615 on-base percentage. The freshman infielder was also named Co-MVP with fellow award winning Moulton at the Carolina Classic.
Freshmen in the Big Ten Rankings
Richardson and Walker have made a name for themselves early on in their career by posting mind-blowing numbers for freshmen. Richardson is tied for third in the Big Ten with 17 RBI while Walker is third in runs scored with 16.
Trading Boots for Spikes
The Gophers have added two unique players to the roster this season in seniors Alex Pafko and Josie Solie, who both were on the Golden Gopher soccer team this past fall. Pafko transferred to Minnesota from St. Cloud State this past summer. Solie has been a standout on the pitch the past four seasons and was named a second team All-Big Ten defender. So far this season, Solie has stolen three bases and scored four times while Pafko has one stolen base and scored once.
Moulton threw a no-hitter in the season opener against Kent State, which was only the 15th time in Gopher history. In the game, the sophomore pitcher fanned nine batters and only allowed a KSU player to reach base four times. The last Gopher to record a no-hitter was Briana Hassett when she did so against South Dakota State on April 24, 2007.
Minnesota opens the 2012 season with 31 straight road games before their first home contest on March 31 against t Big Ten newcomer Nebraska. The Gophers 31-straight road games are the most in the Big Ten Conference.
Sizing Up the Competition
Mercer began the season 0-6, but the Bears have rebounded since going 7-2 to improve their overall record to 7-8. The squad is led by sophomore outfielder McKenzie Woody who is hitting .370 with a team-high 11 RBI. Woody has also been a threat on the base paths with stealing nine bases on 11 attempts.
The Gophers are 1-0 all-time against Mercer with the lone meeting coming on March 19, 2004. Minnesota defeated the Bears 8-1 at the Georgia Tech Buzz Classic.
The Vikings have struggled thus far this season by starting the season 1-8. Junior infielder Dara Toman heads up Cleveland State with a .407 batting average, two home runs and six RBI.
Minnesota holds a 2-0 all-time advantage over the Vikings after sweeping a doubleheader on the road in 2000.
The Bobcats have had a rollercoaster season with posting a 6-6 record to begin the 2012 season. Offensively, Jillian Van Wagnen, a senior outfielder, poses as the biggest threat with hitting .419, scoring 10 runs and batting in four more. The senior also proves to be potent on the base paths with being 8-for-8 on the season in stolen bases.
The Gophers are 3-0 against Ohio with the last meeting between the two coming back in 1998, which favored Minnesota 5-3 at the Triangle Classic in Raleigh, N.C.
The No. 7 Bulldogs are 12-2 on the season and are coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances. Georgia has a number of offensive threats, including Kristyn Sandberg (.483, six HR, 18 RBI) and Tess Sito (.422, four HR, 17 RBI). Sito, who is pitcher/utility, transferred in from Cleveland State this season and was named the Horizon League Player of the Year last season. She is on a Bulldog pitching staff that has a 1.79 team ERA.
Georgia holds the all-time series against the Gophers at 2-1. Minnesota dropped a pair of games to the Bulldogs in 2010, 7-0 and 8-0, when Georgia was ranked No. 4 in the country.
Rutgers enters the weekend 4-3 on the season. They will be lead by their al-time career home runs leader Brittney Lindley. The senior third baseman is hitting .615 with three bombs and eight RBI. Last season, she broke the Scarlet Knight’s career home run record.
Minnesota is 4-0 all-time against Rutgers with the last meeting coming last season in Riverside, Calif. The Gophers pulled out a 9-3 victory over the Scarlet Knights.