No. 13 Minnesota swept Penn State this weekend in a series featuring two shutouts — including a no-hitter by freshman pitcher Sara Groenewegen — and a 16-2 victory in the final game of the series.
The Gophers now have 21 shutout victories this season on the backs of Groenewegen and senior Sara Moulton.
Groenewegen’s no-hitter, which came in a shortened game Saturday, was the first of her career. She said she approached the game with the attitude that she couldn’t take Penn State lightly.
“I came in with the mentality of, ‘It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard,’” she said. “I think we just had a lot of fun, and that’s when good things happen for us.”
Gophers head coach Jessica Allister said she was excited her freshman pitcher completed the no-hitter after coming close on multiple occasions.
“She’s come so close so many times, so it was awesome,” she said. “She’s an excellent player, and she was throwing very well and really kept [Penn State] guessing.”
Groenewegen took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Wisconsin in early April before an infield hit brought it to an end with just two outs left in the final frame.
Moulton kicked off the weekend for the Gophers with a 1-0 shutout win Friday. She’s now tied for the NCAA lead with 11 shutouts this season.
Minnesota’s bats woke up after scoring just one run in the first game, combining for 25 runs in the doubleheader sweep Saturday.
Moulton, who also started in Saturday afternoon’s 16-2 blowout, said she was motivated in that game because it was senior night and her last Big Ten game at home.
“We came in to [Saturday’s games] with the attitude that we were going to stay positive no matter what happened,” she said. “And I think everybody really rallied around us to play great in our last Big Ten home series.”
All-Big Ten infielder Tyler Walker, who went 4-for-10 over the weekend with two home runs and five RBIs, paced her team at the plate. Walker’s teammate, fellow junior All-Big Ten infielder Kaitlyn Richardson, had four RBIs in a 10-run fourth inning in the series finale.
Groenewegen added to her successful weekend with her performance at the plate. She went 4-for-10 with four RBIs over the weekend.
Still, amid the offensive show, Richardson credited the team’s pitching staff with the victories.
“It’s always easy to win games when your pitchers pitch no-hitters,” she said.
Allister said she thought the team improved from Friday’s night game to Saturday’s doubleheader.
“We got better [Saturday],” she said. “I didn’t think we were great [Friday]. We have some people going through things offensively, but we got better to finish the series strong.”
The Gophers have a quick turnaround, hosting North Dakota State in a doubleheader Wednesday night before traveling to Purdue for a three-game series to wrap up Big Ten play.
Richardson said she’s excited to finish the season strong and hopes it culminates in a Big Ten championship.
“There’s a group of teams all fighting for that top spot,” she said. “It’s really a dogfight, and this is going to be an exciting week.”