April 5, 2014
|| No. 14 Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
||Sunday, April 5 • 2:00 p.m. CT (DH)
||Jane Sage Cowles Stadium • Minneapolis, Minn.
||Wisconsin 9, Minnesota 3 (May 12, 2013)
|Gopher Softball Live
||Game 1 | Game 2
The Minnesota softball team, off to its best start in program history, is scheduled to play its first games of the season on its home field Sunday. The Gophers will host Border Battle rival Wisconsin at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in a doubleheader that is slated to begin at 2 p.m. The games will be a rematch of last year’s Big Ten championship game.
At 27-4, the Gophers are off to their best start in school history. Minnesota, whose 5-1 mark in the Big Ten had it in second place entering the weekend, is seeking its fourth-consecutive 30-win seasons under head coach Jessica Allister. The Gophers have outscored their opponents 188-60 this season averaging 6.07 runs scored and 1.94 runs allowed per game.
The Badgers come to Minneapolis with a 16-14 record on the season and a 2-4 mark in the Big Ten after dropping two of three games in series against Northwestern and Iowa. Cassandra Darrah leads UW’s pitching staff with a 10-8 record and a 2.75 ERA while the team boasts three players who are hitting upwards of .350 in Mary Massei (.383), Michelle Mueller (.373), and Maria Van Abel (.366). Mueller leads the team with 23 RBI and Massei has a team-best five home runs and 17 extra-base hits.
Against the Badgers
Wisconsin maintained an edge in the all-time series against Minnesota at 22-20 after defeating Minnesota in last year’s Big Ten title game, 9-3. The teams split four games in 2013 after the Gophers took two of three in a home series in April.
Senior pitcher Sara Moulton, one of Minnesota’s most decorated players, was drafted fifth in last week’s National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) College Draft by the Chicago Bandits. Moulton will join five former Gophers who have pitch in the professional league: Shannon Beeler, Amber Hegland, Stephanie Klaviter, Wendy Logue, and current pitching coach Piper Ritter.
Moulton is 18-3 on the season with a 1.29 ERA that is good for 22nd in the nation. Her win total of 18 leads the Big Ten and is fourth in the country, while her 171 strikeouts rank her ninth in NCAA Division I. She has the school records for wins with 103, innings pitched with 932, complete games with 101, and shutouts with 44. Her 1,111 strikeouts is 11 shy of tying Ritter’s mark of 1,122.
B1G Weekly Awards
Entering the week, Sara Moulton had been the only Minnesota player to win a Big Ten Weekly Award in 2014, racking up three Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Awards. First-year player Sara Gronewegen changed that by winning the conference’s Freshman of the Week Award.
The White Rock, B.C. native recorded a hit in all three games and posted a .429 batting average and a .556 on-base percentage. She hit home runs in the teams first two games and earned a complete-game shutout win in the circle in the second game, allowing just four hits and a pair of walks while striking out 10 in six innings.
In the Polls
The Gophers are ranked No. 14 in both the USA Today/NFCA Coaches and ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 polls this week and are 15th in the RPI rankings. The No. 14 spot in the USA Today/NFCA Poll is the highest the program has been since the week of April 16, 1997.
On the Offensive
Junior Kaitlyn Richardson has been Minnesota’s top hitter this season, hitting for a .440 average and a team-best 35 RBI. Her on-base percentage of .564 ranks her 12th in NCAA Division I. She has hit six home runs and 10 doubles to aid in a .774 slugging percentage. Tyler Walker also enters the weekend with an average over .400 at .412. Walker leads the team with 31 runs and 10 stolen bases.
The Gophers will head to Iowa Tuesday for a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. before returning home next weekend to host No. 23-ranked Northwestern in a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.