March 8, 2012
The University of Minnesota softball team heads to Boca Raton, Fla. this weekend for a five-game stint. The Gophers carry a 14-4 record into the tournament, which is hosted by Florida Atlantic.
Minnesota is on its hottest start since 2002 by going 14-4 through the first 18 games. In 2002, the team went 15-3 to begin the season.
The Gophers have hit a total of 21 home runs this season, which is only three under the previous two year's season totals. Currently, the 21 four-baggers rank as the 10th most for a Gopher season, and the team is only 18 games into the 2012 season.
Gophers Have Mercy
The Maroon and Gold have forced the eight-run mercy rule on its opponents six 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 has also only committed 13 errors on the season, which gives them a conference-best fielding percentage of .975. Wisconsin has the Big Ten's next best percentage at .966.
Minnesota has only allowed 30 runs thus far, which is the fewest since the 2002 when the Gophers allowed 23 runs through 18 games.
Meyer is Streaking
Freshman Erica Meyer carries an eight-game hitting streak into this weekend's action. Meyer has tallied 16 hits on the season with seven of them being bunt singles.
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 (0.80), opponent's batting average (.140), strikeouts (124) and wins (11). Last weekend, Moulton surpassed the 100-strikeout mark in only her 14th appearance of the season.
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. Currently, the four highest batting averages on the team go to four freshmen.
Big Ten Freshman of the Week
Katie Richardson was selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for this past weekend's efforts in Georgia. The freshman went .500 (6-for-12) at the plate with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI. The Phoenix, Ariz. native earned eight walks during the five-game stint, which helped her hoist an OPS of 1.867.
Freshman in the Rankings
Richardson and Tyler Walker have made a name for themselves early on in their career by posting mind-blowing numbers for freshmen. Richardson is first in the Big Ten with 21 RBI and ssix home runs while Walker is first in runs scored with 21.
Trading in 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 six times while Pafko has one stolen base and scored twice
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.
The Hilltoppers come into the weekend 15-5 on the season. WKU has lived on the edge thus far this year with nine of its 19 games being decided by one or two runs. The infield duo of freshmen Shawna Sadler and Preslie Cruce head up the Hilltoppers' offense as each is hitting .350 from the plate. Sophomore Kelsie Mattox also adds support with her eight home runs on the season.
Friday will be the first-ever meeting between the Gophers and the Hilltoppers.
The Friars enter the weekend on the down slop as they are 2-6 on the year. Junior outfielder Jessie Bryant is the top offensive threat for Providence with a .400 batting average and two home runs. The Friars biggest question mark early on in the season is their pitching staff, which currently has a 6.12 ERA.
Minnesota and Providence have never met before, so Friday will be the first-ever meeting between the two.
The Wildcats reached NCAA Regionals last spring but have struggled early on in 2012 with only posting a 4-16 record. Offensively, Michelle Banuelos-Smith and Sabring Ferguson leads Bethune-Cookman. Banuelos-Smith has the team's highest batting average ay .375 while Ferguson has racked up 15 RBI on the season. A huge struggle for the Wildcats is its pitching staff, which has an ERA of 8.01 this season.
The Gophers hold the all-time series at 2-0 with both victories coming March 24, 1999. In both contests, Minnesota shutout Bethune-Cookman, 7-0 and 10-0 (five innings).
The Owls host the tournament this weekend in hopes of turning their season around after beginning the year 6-15. One of the bright spots on the team is junior Stephanie Call who is hitting .400 from the plate, has eight extra-base hits and 11 RBI. Call, who is plays first base, has also seen time in the circle.
Florida Atlantic holds the all-time series record against the Gophers at 1-4. The last meeting between the two was February 20, 2010 when FAU defeated Minnesota 5-0 on their home field.
Boston College heads into the five-game tournament with a 12-5 record. The Eagles are led by a pair of veterans in senior Alu Lynette-Krech and junior Nicole D'Argento. Lynette-Krech holds the team's highest batting average at .489 while D'Argento is hitting .423 and leads the team in runs (10) home runs (three) and RBI (15).
Sunday's match-up will determine who is the all-time series leader since the current record sits at 1-1. The last meeting between the two foes was March 6, 2005 when Minnesota defeated Boston College 3-2 at the Worth Invitational in Fullerton, California.