|Minnesota vs. Nebraska|
|Date|| Saturday, March 31 (DH)
Sunday, April 1
Saturday: Noon/2 p.m. (Gopher All-Access)
|Location||Jane Sage Cowles Stadium (1,000)|
|Game Day Central|
|Season Statistics||Minnesota | Nebraska|
|Social Media||Facebook | @GopherSoftball|
The University of Minnesota softball team welcomes Big Ten newcomer Nebraska to Jane Sage Cowles Stadium for their home opening weekend. The Golden Gophers (19-9) are coming off a 1-2 weekend against Illinois to open the Big Ten season while the Huskers (20-12) ride a nine-game winning streak into Minneapolis, Minn.
The two foes will play a doubleheader on Saturday, which are slated for noon and 2 p.m. They will then turn comeback and play a game on Sunday at noon. Saturday's game will be available through Gopher All-Access while Sunday's game will be live on the Big Ten Network.
The Golden Gophers opened Big Ten Conference play last weekend against Illinois and would leave Champaign, Ill. with winning 1-of-3 games.
In game one, a pair of unearned runs in the first inning would prove costly for the Gophers as they fell 2-0. The second game was different as Minnesota snagged an early lead, but Illinois would storm back and win in the bottom of the seventh. 4-3.
Behind an eight run seventh inning, the Gophers avenged their two losses in the last game of the series by pounding the Illini 14-4.
The Huskers are 20-12 on the season and come to Minneapolis, Minn. riding a nine-game winning streak. Nu has a potent offensive attack as they are second in the Big Ten with a .313 batting average and have produced the most runs (197) in the league.
Offensively, Nebraska has a number of threats, but Gabby Banda may be the biggest with hitting .394 with 11 extra-base hits. The defending Big Ten Player of the Week, Brooke Thomason, also poses as a threat with driving in 10 runs in the past four games, including five on a walk-off grand slam.
The Huskers have a tough pitcher in the circle in Ashley Hageman. The senior is one of the top pitchers in the nation and ranks sixth in the nation with 177 strikeouts. Hageman got off to a rough start to begin the season but has caught stride with her ERA dropping every appearance.
All-time Versus Nebraska
The Huskers hold the all-time series record at 6-15. In the 21 game series, only twice have either team competed at home. The last meetings between the two came in 2007 at the Shocker Invitational in Wichita, Kan. Nebraska would win both games, 3-2 and 4-2. The last time Minnesota defeated the Huskers was a 4-1 victory on March 7, 1992 at the Aggie Invitational in College Station, Texas.
Minnesota has belted 32 home runs this season, which is the most in the Big Ten Conference. The 32 four-baggers are third most in school history for a single season. The most home runs in a single season for Minnesota is 43, set in 1999.
All 10 of the Gophers' regular offensive starters have a home run this season.
The Gophers has committed the fewest errors in the Big Ten this year at 20, which gives them the conference's top fielding percentage at .975. Minnesota has also been stingy with allowing runs as they have only surrendered 51 on the season, which is the fewest for a Gopher squad in the first 28 games of the season since 2002 (42).
Gophers Have Mercy
The Maroon and Gold utilized the eight-run mercy rule eight 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 14 wins on the season with an ERA of 0.76 (8th in the nation). She has allowed only 17 runs, 11 of which are earned, and fanned 188 batters (4th 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.
Freshman Erica Meyer serves as a dual threat player with the combination of speed and power. Meyer began the season playing small ball by recording seven bunt singles and seven sacrifice bunts. Since then, Meyer has also belted three home runs with two coming in the final game of the Illinois series.
Allister Notches 50th Win
Head coach Jessica Allister recorded her 50th career victory last weekend in the Gophers' 14-4 victory over Illinois. She is her second season as a head coach and possesses a 50-33 record.
After playing 28-straight road contests, Minnesota will have its first home games of the season this weekend against Nebraska. The Gophers were originally scheduled for 31, but three games were cancelled in Boise, Idaho, due to inclement weather.
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 two stolen base and scored five times.
For the first time since 1994, the Gophers opened the season with six freshmen in the starting lineup. Minnesota is one of four teams in the nation to start at least six freshmen this season. The other schools are IUPU-Indianapolis, IP-Fort Wayne, USS Upstate and Florida.
Racing to 20
If Minnesota defeats Nebraska in the opening game this weekend, it will be the fastest a Gopher squad has reached 20 wins since 2002 (27 games). If it takes the Gophers until the second or third game, it will be the fastest since 2008.
First Pitch with Maddie Houlihan
Our final freshman to introduce you to before season is Maddie Houlihan out of Plymouth, Minn.
Groenewegen Named to Watch List
Sara Groenewegen has been selected to the “Watch List” for the 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award for her second straight season.
First Pitch with Taylor Chell
With season less than two weeks away get to know one of the newest Gophers in freshman outfielder Taylor Chell.