April 13, 2012
The University of Minnesota softball team hits the road for Evanston, Ill. in hopes of jumping back on track after losing five of its last six games. The Golden Gophers (22-14, 3-6 B1G) are coming off a mid-week split with Green Bay, and they turn their heads to Big Ten Conference foe Northwestern (16-20, 4-5 B1G), a team they swept last season.
The weekend battle has a doublehead slated for Saturday afternoon (noon and 2 p.m.) with the third game slated for Sunday at noon.
Last Series: Green Bay
Minnesota split their two-game mid-week series with Green Bay. The Golden Gophers snagged the first game 7-0 behind Sara Moulton’s three-hitter, which snapped a four-game losing streak for Minnesota. The Maroon and Gold then turned around and fell to the Phoenix 5-2, which was the first loss to Green Bay since 2000.
The Wildcats enter the weekend on a two-game win streak after taking the series against Iowa last weekend.
Offensively, Northwestern sits tied for second in the conference with 34 home runs, but the potent swingers also lead the league in strikeouts. NU is led by duo Marisa Best and Emily Allard. Best, who is a sophomore third baseman, is has the highest batting average in the league at .429. She also has 10 home runs on the year and 40 RBI. Allard, a junior shortstop, also holds one of the Big Ten Conference’s best batting average at .383. She leads the conference in hits with 54 and is one of the most feared base runners in the league with stealing 21 bases on 24 attempts.
The Wildcats have struggled to keep their opponents from scoring as their pitching staff combines for a 4.22 ERA, and their defense has committed 50 errors, which ranks second in the league. NU’s hurlers have allowed 23 home runs on the season.
The Wildcats hold the all-time series record 46-40. Last season, the Gophers took the two-game sweep in Evanston, Ill. as they defeated Northwestern 3-0 and 4-3.
Minnesota has a total of 38 home runs on the season, which is the second most in Gopher history for a single season and leads the conference this season. The most homers 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 (.970) and has committed only 31 errors on the year. They also have allowed the fewest runs in the conference (92).
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.
Minnesota has played 36 games this season and all but five of those games have been on the road. The Gophers head to Northwestern this weekend for another three games on the road, and they then return home for a three-game series with Michigan next weekend.
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 five bases and scored 11 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).
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.
Senior Dannie Skrove carries a five-game hitting streak into this weekend’s three-game series against Northwestern, which is currently the longest on the team. Kari Dorle has the next longest hit streak at three while no other Gopher has more than two.
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 46-9 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 16-1 record when this happens.