April 4, 2012
The University of Minnesota softball team heads to Madison, Wis. this weekend for a three-game series to decide the winner of the softball Border Battle. The Gophers are coming off a 2-1 weekend at home against Nebraska while the Badgers went 1-2 this past weekend but picked up three mid-week victories.
The first game this weekend is slated for Friday at 1 p.m., and the other two will be a doubleheader on Saturday with the first game beginning at noon.
The Golden Gophers had their first home games of the season as they hosted Big Ten newcomer Nebraska for a three-game series.
The first contest was a high-scoring affair, but Minnesota pulled out the 13-7 victory as Sara Moulton garnered the win. Kaitlyn Richardson went 4-for-5 in the game with a double, home run and three RBI. The Gophers also pulled out game two 8-5 as Alissa Koch and Kelsey Kimminau split pitching duties.
On Sunday, the Maroon and Gold played a two hour, 50 minute game that went eight-innings. After Tyler Walker tied the game up in the bottom of the sixth, the Huskers would notch the game-winning run in the top eighth to claim the 5-4 victory.
Wisconsin (17-12, 3-3 Big Ten) enters the weekend on a three-game winning streak after defeating University of Illinois-Chicago and Loyola Chicago during the week. Prior to the mid-week contests, the Badgers dropped 2-of-3 games to Northwestern.
UW’s offense is hitting .286 at the plate with Maria Van Abel posting the highest average (.419). The Badgers display a stereotypical small ball offense as they lead the conference in sacrifice bunts (41) and are second in stolen bases (50).
Wisconsin is solid in the circle as they start either Meghan Mcintosh or Cassandra Darrah for the majority of their games. Mcintosh is 2-5 on the year but has an earned run average of 2.72. Darrah has a team-high 11 wins on the year (11-6) with a 2.55 ERA. The Badger defense is a large contributor to the successes of the pitching staff as they are have committed only 35 errors on the year.
The Gophers enter the weekend with a slight advantage in the all-time series as they lead 18-17 in the softball Border Battle. Last season, the two split a pair of tight games in Madison, Wis. (W, 1-0; L, 5-3). Minnesota is 8-10 all-time when facing Wisconsin in Madison.
Minnesota holds a 345-295 advantage in the 2012 Border Battle with only six contests remaining. Whoever takes 2-of-3 games in this weekend’s series will be awarded 40 points.
This is the eighth year of the Border Battle, and the Golden Gophers lead the series 4-3. The Maroon and Gold have claimed the lead after winning the last three years.
Minnesota has a total of 35 home runs on the season, which is the second most in Gopher history for a single season. The most in school history is 43, which was hit during the 1999 season.
Despite having a youthful squad, the Gophers have proven to be the top defensive team in the league. Minnesota has the top fielding percentage in the Big Ten (.973) and has committed only 24 errors on the year. They also have allowed the fewest runs in the conference (68).
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
Moulton has been a force this season and not only leads the Big Ten in all major pitching categories but also ranks amongst the top pitchers in the country. Moulton has 15 wins on the season with an ERA of 1.12 ( 17th in the nation). She has allowed only 35 runs, 23 of which are earned, and fanned 198 batters (5th in the nation). The Eagan, Minn. native has also hurled two no-hitters this season, which were the 15th and 16th in school history.
Richardson Garners Third Big Ten Honor
The Big Ten named Richardson Co-Freshman of the Week for her efforts in the Nebraska series. The Phoenix, Ariz. native went .500 (6-for-12) at the plate with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI. This award is her third Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor this season.
Richardson and fellow freshman Tyler Walker are one of the Big Ten’s top duos. They combine for a .402 batting average, which is second to only Marisa Bast and Emily Allard from Northwestern. The two freshman infielders combine for the highest slugging percentage (.748) and have tallied the most runs in the league (62).
Minnesota heads back on the road after their first home contests of the year, which was a three-game series against Nebraska. The Gophers played 28 games on the road before playing at JSC Stadium, and they now hit the road for six more games with a pair of three-game series’ against Wisconsin and Northwestern.
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.
Speeding to 20
The Maroon and Gold reached the 20-win mark this season in only 29 games, which sit he fastest for a Gopher squad since 2002 (27 games).
Walking in Minneapolis
The Gophers have been walked more than any other team in the conference (140). Kari Dorle has the most on the team with 27, which ranks second for an individual.
Gophers Make the Poll
Minnesota was listed in the ESPN.com/USA Today poll as receiving two votes. It is the first time that the Gophers have received votes in any poll since 2004.
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.
Four Gophers carry a hitting streak into this weekend’s series. Richardson has the longest at six games, which is a season high, while Madie Eckstrom heads to Madison with a five game streak. Walker will also begin the series with a three game hit streak while Dorle is at two games.
Cleaning Up in the Fourth
Minnesota has proven to be an explosive offense, and they seem to be at their best in the fourth inning. The Maroon and Gold have outscored their opponents 40-4 in the fourth inning, which is also their highest scoring inning on the year.
Magic Number: Five
The Gophers are undefeated on the season when they score five or more runs in a contest. They hoist a 15-0 record when this happens.