|Minnesota vs. Northwestern|
|Date|| Saturday, April 21 (DH)
Sunday, April 22
Saturday: Noon/2 p.m. (Gopher All Access)
|Location||Jane Sage Cowles Stadium|
|Game Day Central|
|Season Statistics||Minnesota | Michigan|
|Social Media||Facebook | @GopherSoftball|
The University of Minnesota softball team hosts the four-time defending Big Ten regular season champion No. 20 Michigan this weekend for a three-game series. The Golden Gophers (26-15, 5-7 Big Ten) hope to climb the league standings this weekend against the conference's top team. A doubleheader is slated to begin at noon on Saturday with the final contest scheduled for noon on Sunday.
Last Series: North Dakota State
Behind two impressive outings by Sara Moulton, the Golden Gophers snagged an important non-conference sweep over North Dakota State on Wednesday at JSC Stadium. Minnesota garnered a 4-0 win in the first game despite only having three hits. Game two was very similar as the Maroon and Gold pulled out a 5-0 victory with Madie Eckstrom and Kari Dorle going yard. Moulton tallied 20 strikeouts on the day and was awarded both wins.
Scouting No. 20 Michigan
The No. 20-ranked Wolverines (31-11, 11-1 Big Ten) come into Minneapolis, Minn. on a four-game win streak. Michigan is one of the most storied schools in the country as they have qualified for NCAA Regionals the last 17 seasons along with winning the last four Big Ten regular season titles. They return three All-Americans form last year's squad, including the 2011 Big Ten Player of the Year Amanda Chidester.
Chidester heads up the offense as she is hitting .355 with 20 extra-base hits and 35 RBI. Fellow All-Americans Ashley Lane and Bree Evans are also having another standout season at the plate. Lane is hitting .282 with a team most 10 home runs while Evans is batting .288.
The biggest change from last season is the Michigan pitching staff, which is comprised of two outstanding freshmen in Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga. Wagner garners most of the time in the circle and has a 1.45 ERA and 22-4 record. Driesenga compliments her fellow freshman with a 2.39 ERA and is 8-7 on the year. Both pitchers also see time in the batting order as Wagner is hitting .154 and Driesenga has a team-high batting average of .400.
The pitching staff's best friend is the Wolverine defense, which has a .969 fielding percentage and has only committed 39 errors.
Michigan holds the all-time series with Minnesota at 73-23. The last time the Golden Gophers defeated Michigan was a 2-0 triumph in 2007 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Maroon and Gold have belted 41 home runs this season with the most recent being a Dorle solo shot against North Dakota State. The 41 homers is the second most in school history, behind the 43 hit in 1999.
Gophers Have Mercy
The Gophers' 10-2 eight-run mercy rule victory over Northwestern last weekend was the team's ninth this season, which is second only to the 10 accrued in 1999.
Minnesota is one of the top defensive teams in the Big Ten as they have the fewest errors in the league (37) and are tied with Michigan for the highest fielding percentage (.969).
Queen of the Circle
Moulton has proven to be one of the top pitchers in the country with hoisting an ERA of 1.12, which ranks 14th in the nation and top in the Big Ten. She also sits 10th in the country with 248 strikeouts. So far this season, she has thrown two no-hitters and reached double-digit strikeouts 12 times.
The Maroon and Gold leads the Big Ten in free passes (walks and hit by pitches) with 206. The majority of these have been received by Alex Davis (27 BB, 11 HBP), Kari Dorle (31 BB, 1 HBP) and Kaitlyn Richardson (29 BB, 1 HBP). Davis' 38 free passes currently heads up the league list.
Cleaning Up in the Fourth
Statistically, Minnesota proves to be the most explosive in the fourth inning as it outscores its' opponents 54-10 in the inning.
Magic Number: Five
When the Golden Gophers score five or more runs, they are 19-1 this season.
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.