MINNEAPOLSI -- The Minnesota softball program hosts conference rival Iowa on Wednesday afternoon in a Big Ten doubleheader at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Game one's opening pitch is slated for 4:30 p.m. local time with the series finale tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m.
Minnesota (23-16 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) come into the series with a four-game winning streak after a pair of nonconference sweeps last week. Meanwhile, Iowa (21-15, 4-2) rose to third in the Big Ten after sweeping Michigan State last weekend in East Lansing.
Minnesota trails Iowa 36-55 in the all-time series including a pair of losses to the Hawkeyes last year at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The Gophers' last win over their Big Ten rival came in a 1-0 13-inning victory on April 20, 2008 in Iowa City.
Last Time Out
Four games in three days didn't phase the Gophers last week as the team swept series against Iowa State and South Dakota. Sara Moulton opened the week with a 10-inning 1-0 shutout over the Cyclones on Thursday afternoon before Minnesota's bats came alive in the second game of the day when Minnesota picked up an 11-3 win to earn the sweep. Two days later, Moulton and Alissa Koch each threw a one-hit shutout against the Coyotes as the Gophers picked up wins of 3-0 and 5-0.
Big Ten Network Broadcast
The Big Ten Network will broadcast the Iowa doubleheader live on Wednesday evening. Marney Gellner and Stacey Phillips will have the call. Fans will have two more chances to catch the Gophers on the national sports channel when the team hosts Michigan State (5/1) and Illinois (5/13).
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Follow The Action
Both of the Gophers' games over the weekend can be followed using the Minnesota softball blog on GopherSports.com. Recaps and box scores will also be posted on the site at the conclusion of the day.
Getting the Win
With 39 games already in the book and 16 remaining on the schedule, the Gophers' 23 wins so far in 2011 are already seven more than the team recorded in the 2010 season. The team needs just one more conference win to equal its 2010 total.
Moulton Earns Conference Honors
After recording a pair of shutouts in two appearances last week, freshman pitcher Sara Moulton earned the Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the third time in her career. Moulton pitched all 10 innings in Minnesota's 1-0 blanking of Iowa State last Thursday, tying a career-high with 15 strikeouts. Two days later, Moulton went the distance once again, this time carrying a perfect game into the seventh inning before surrendering South Dakota's lone hit. The frosh struck out 13 to bring her weekly total to 28.
Barnes Steps Up To The Plate
Malisa Barnes is showing her experience in her final season of play. The senior ranks fourth in the conference with a .430 batting average and is fifth in the Big Ten with 49 hits. The senior also ranks second in the conference with nine doubles and third in the conference with a .554 on-base percentage. She's also one of the league's most disciplined batters, ranking third with 32 walks this season.
Moulton Among Big Ten Leaders
Freshman Sara Moulton ranks among the top pitchers in the conference in just her first year of collegiate play. Moulton is tied for first in the conference with 20 wins this season while the freshman also ranks second in the Big Ten in strikeouts with 236.
Finding a Way Home
Junior Dannie Skrove, who ranks second in the league with 11 HBP this season, has scored in four-straight games dating back to last Thursday. A run on Wednesday for Skrove will tie Malisa Barnes' mark of five-straight games with a run for the season high.
Stringing Hits Together
Outfielder Allie Siu and catcher Kari Dorle each bring a five-game hitting streak into Wednesday's doubleheader against the Hawkeyes. The duo have each hit safely in at least one at bat in every game dating back to April 7. Dorle has also recorded at least one RBI in each game since the streak began.
Tough on Defense
As a team, Minnesota ranks second in the Big Ten with a .969 team fielding percentage this season behind only Michigan. Even more impressive is that the team leads the league with 1,150 chances and 775 putouts. The Gophers also rank second in assists with 339.
DuPaul Brings 'Em Home
Freshman Sara DuPaul tied a Minnesota season record with five RBI last Thursday in the second Iowa State game. The designated player went 3-for-3 in the 11-3 win over the cyclones including her second-career home run. Senior Malisa Barnes was the first to hit the five RBI mark this season when she brought in five runners in Minnesota's 9-3 win over Rutgers on Feb. 18.
Getting on Base
At the plate, Minnesota ranks fifth in the Big Ten this season with 256 walks while ranking second in walks (131) and first in HBP (35). Minnesota also ranks fifth in the league in total bases with 356.
Koch Finds Her Stride
After struggling to find wins in her first two years at Minnesota, junior Allisa Koch has found a groove over the last week. The pitcher picked up a pair of wins including a one-hit shutout over South Dakota on Saturday to pick up her third win of the season (3-6) and set a career mark with 17 strikeouts. The junior had just two career wins in her first two seasons with the Gophers.
Allister Era Begins
The 2011 season will mark the first season of the Jessica Allister era at Minnesota. The former All-American from Stanford was hired as the sixth coach in Gopher history after serving as an assistant at her alma mater, Georgia and most recently Oregon. As an assistant, Allister has helped three different programs to Super Regional appearances in the past four years.