Gophers Primed for SpringHill Suites Invitational

Go Gophers! Bree Blanchette carries a team-high four-game hitting streak into this weekend.
Go Gophers!
Bree Blanchette carries a team-high four-game hitting streak into this weekend.
Go Gophers!

March 13, 2012

The University of Minnesota softball team closes out its non-conference tournament schedule this week as they head to Boise, Idaho for the annual SpringHill Suites Invitational. After going 3-2 in Florida, the Golden Gophers carry a 17-6 record into the five-game tournament.

Leading Off
The Gophers went 3-2 this past weekend at the Embassy Suites Invitational in Boca Raton, Fla. Minnesota began the tournament with a 1-0 nine-inning victory over Western Kentucky and then fell 4-3 to Providence. In the second day, the Maroon and Gold garnered a pair of wins by defeating Bethune-Cookman 13-0 in five innings and host Florida Atlantic 5-1. They capped off the tournament with a 2-1 loss to Boston College.

Scouting the Competition
Boise State
The Broncos, who are 15-10 on the season, are coming off a 2-3 weekend at the DeMarini Invitational. BSU is led offensively by sophomore outfielders Tara Glover and Devon Bridges. Glover has the team’s top batting average (.447) and has tallied a team-high 20 runs while Bridges has recorded team-highs in home runs (three) and RBI (11). Senior pitcher Aubray Zell is Boise State’s top pitcher with posting a 1.82 ERA and fanning 85 batters.

Minnesota and Boise State have only met once prior to this season, which was a 3-2 victory for the Gophers at the 2010 SpringHill Suites Invitational.

Portland State
The Vikings enter the weekend 9-10 after going 2-3 in Riverside, Calif. this past weekend. Karmen Holladay is PSU’s feared hitter at the plate with having a .339 batting average, five home runs and 11 RBI, which are all top marks for the Vikings. In the circle for Portland State will likely be Anna Bertrand, who has a 2.12 ERA and 88 strikeouts on the season.

The Gophers hold the all-time series at 4-2 with their last meeting coming during the 2011 season. Minnesota garnered a 2-0 victory in Tucson, Ariz.

Idaho State
Idaho State, who are 3-18 on the season, carry a seven-game skid into the tournament. The Bengal’s have a team batting average of .244 with Vicky Galasso having the top average at .344. ISU’s pitching staff has been a weakness this season as they have a 6.61 combined ERA and have allowed opponents to hit .339 against them.

Minnesota and Idaho State have only met twice with the Maroon and Gold holding the 2-0 advantage. The two met last season in Tucson, Ariz. with the Gophers winning 7-4.

Utah State
The Aggies enter the weekend slumping as they have lost their last seven games to drop to 8-15 on the season. Christina Thomsen guides the Utah State offense into the weekend with a .419 batting average and seven RBI. USU’s struggle will be getting the pitching staff to turn around as they have posted a combined 4.95 ERA this season and allowed its opponents to hit .323 at the plate.

Minnesota holds the all-time series at 5-2 with the two’s last meeting coming just last season. The Gophers pulled out a 2-1 victory in Tucson, Ariz.

Going…Going…Gone
Minnesota has belted 24 home runs this season, which is the most in the Big Ten Conference. The 24 four-baggers are tied for seventh most in school history for a single season (2010 and 2011). The most home runs in a single season for Minnesota is 43, set in 1999.

Defensive Dominance
The Gophers has committed the fewest errors in the Big Ten this year at 17, which gives them the conference’s top fielding percentage at .974. Minnesota has also been stingy with allowing runs as they have only surrendered 37 on the season, which is the fewest for a Gopher squad in the first 23 games of the season since 2002 (30).

Gophers Have Mercy
The Maroon and Gold utilized the eight-run mercy rule seven times this season. The team record is 10, which was set back in 1999.

Queen of the Circle
Sophomore Sara Moulton has been a force this season by being nearly unhittable. She not only leads the Big Ten in all major pitching categories but also ranks amongst the top pitchers in the country. Moulton has 13 wins (t-2nd in the nation) on the season with an ERA of 0.64 (7th in the nation). She has allowed only 15 runs, 10 of which are earned, and fanned 158 batters (1st in the nation). The Eagan, Minn. native has also hurled two no-hitters this season, which were the 15th and 16th no-hitters in school history.

Moulton Pitcher of the Week
Moulton was tagged the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the third time this season following a stellar performance in Florida. The sophomore threw 22-spotless innings for the Gophers and went 2-1 on the weekend. Moulton also struck out 34 batters and allowed only seven hits in her three appearances.

Richardson Repeats as Freshman of the Week
Freshman Kaitlyn Richardson garnered her second-straight Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor by going .538 from the plate. She posted an OPS of 1.436 while scoring five runs, driving in three Gophers and hitting three doubles.

Meyer Playing Small Ball
Freshman Erica Meyer has recorded 18 hits this season with seven of them being bunt singles. She has also laid down a conference-best seven sacrifice bunts.

Road Warriors
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.

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 while Solie has been a standout on the pitch the past four seasons and was named a second team All-Big Ten defender. This softball season, Solie has stolen four bases and scored eight times while Pafko has one stolen base and scored three times.

Looking Fresh
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.