Minnesota to Open Big Ten Tournament Against Penn State
Third-seeded Minnesota (33-16) opens play at the 2013 Big Ten Tournament in Lincoln, Neb., on Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT, where it will face No. 11 Penn State (16-33). The Nittany Lions advanced to play Minnesota with a 5-2 win against No. 6 Illinois on Thursday. If the Gophers advance in the single-elimination format, they would play in the second semifinal on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
The Gophers are 33-16 overall and finished 14-6 in the Big Ten after sweeping three games against Indiana last weekend. Minnesota opened with an 8-0 shutout in five innings in the first game of a Saturday doubleheader, and won the nightcap 1-0 on sophomore shortstop Tyler Walker's solo home run in the eighth inning. The Gophers completed the sweep with a 5-4 win for Senior Day on Sunday.
Head coach Jessica Allister is in her third season at Minnesota with a record of 95-62 (.605). She has led the Gophers to 30-plus wins in three consecutive years for the first time since 2004.
Minnesota has three First Team All-Big Ten players for the first time since 1988, as junior pitcher Sara Moulton, sophomore third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson and sophomore shortstop Tyler Walker all made the first team that was announced by the conference office on Wednesday.
Minnesota has combined for 47 home runs in its 49 games so far, after hitting 53 HRs in 53 games during the 2012 season. Walker leads the team with 11 home runs, while Richardson has 10, and junior centerfielder Bree Blanchette and freshman right fielder Kayla Wenner each have seven.
Moulton is ranked among the top 25 for victories (3rd), shutouts (5th) and strikeouts (16th) in this week's NCAA stats, and is 30th for earned run average. For the season, Moulton is 29-9 with a 1.59 ERA, 24 complete games, and 260 strikeouts in 238.0 IP.
Walker and Richardson each have impressive numbers this season. Richardson is batting .462 (61-for-132) with 40 RBI, 34 R, 11 doubles and 10 home runs, while Walker is batting .405 (66-for-163) with 49 R, 29 RBI, 15 doubles, two triples, 11 home runs, and 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts.
Minnesota owns an all-time record of 12-17 in games at the Big Ten Tournament/Championships. The Gophers' best finish was during 1999, when they went 3-0 to win the title.