For the first time in 26 years, a conference softball title is coming back to Dinkytown. The fourth-ranked Gophers (51-3, 21-1 Big Ten) swept Penn State (22-32, 8-15 Big Ten) this weekend, clinching the outright Big Ten regular season title after Saturday’s 14-1 victory. “It was awesome to see our girls work so hard all year and be rewarded with a regular season championship,” said head coach Jessica Allister. “There was a lot of excitement, a lot of celebrating, and it was wonderful to see them so happy.” The title is Minnesota’s first regular season crown since 1991, and follows last season’s conference tournament championship. The Gophers were never really threatened by the Nittany Lions, racking up three run-rule victories in three games.
In 1991, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a new release, New Kids On The Block took the stage at the Super Bowl halftime show and the Minnesota Twins won their most recent world series. It was also the last time a Gophers softball team won a regular-season Big Ten Championship. That could change this weekend, when the fourth-ranked Gophers (48-3, 18-1 Big Ten) travel to University Park, Pennsylvania to take on Penn State (22-29, 8-12 Big Ten) for a chance to clinch the title on their minds. “It’s so cool that that’s something we’re playing for this weekend,” said right fielder Maddie Houlihan.
Non-conference, no problem. That was the case for the No. 4 Gophers softball team (45-3, 15-1 Big Ten) on Wednesday, as it took down North Dakota State (20-28, 7-5 Summit League) in a mid-week doubleheader at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The Gophers jumped on the board early in game one when right fielder Maddie Houlihan continued her hot streak with a two-run double in the first inning.
Three wins over the weekend culminated in a record-breaking home crowd for the Minnesota softball team. The fifth-ranked Gophers softball program (43-3, 16-1 Big Ten) capped off a three-game sweep of the Iowa Hawkeyes (15-27, 7-10 Big Ten) in front of a record crowd of 1,383 on Sunday. “Today’s crowd was unbelievable,” head coach Jessica Allister said.
Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister has said all season that if her team performs three facets of the game —offense, defense and pitching — well, they will have a good chance to win. This weekend, the Gophers excelled at all three. No. 6 Minnesota (38-3, 10-1 Big Ten) battled through three Friday night rain delays to earn a weekend sweep of Northwestern (16-23, 3-9 Big Ten). “I think we had a couple of different curveballs thrown at us [this weekend] — Friday night we had three different rain delays,” Allister said.
A lot has happened for Gophers softball in the past four seasons — and Sam Macken has been an integral part throughout it all. She was thrown into the fire almost as soon as she stepped onto the Minnesota campus and proved she could handle the pressure just as quickly. She came up big in moments when it mattered at the plate as a rookie, which included a walk-off single to beat Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament title game and a three-run home run against Auburn to send Minnesota to its first-ever Super Regional. “Sam loves softball,” said head coach Jessica Allister.
Offense has been the story for the Gophers softball team as of late and the scoring showed no interest in a conclusion this weekend. With a big weekend from the middle of the lineup, No. 7 Minnesota (35-3, 8-1 Big Ten) swept Indiana (17-21, 3-6 Big Ten), boosting the Gophers to a tie for first place atop the Big Ten. “We swung the bats well,” said head coach Jessica Allister.
Every team needs a joker, and for the Gophers softball team, it’s Sydney Dwyer. Dwyer, a junior infielder, carries a reputation for cracking up her teammates — an importantasset in a long, road-heavy softball season. “She’s definitely one of the funniest people I’ve met in my entire life,” said senior pitcher Sara Groenewegen.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire — and perhaps nowhere more so than in the Gophers softball batting order. No. 7 Minnesota (32-3, 5-1 Big Ten) once again showcased its offensive firepower in two victories over South Dakota (12-22, 3-3 Summit) on Tuesday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium — the Gophers’ home opener. “It was wonderful — we love playing at home,” said head coach Jessica Allister.
The No. 6 Gophers softball team won their second Big Ten series of the season this weekend. Minnesota (30-3, 5-1 Big Ten) took two of three games against Illinois (24-10, 4-2 Big Ten) to continue its hot start to the conference schedule. The weekend started with a bang on Friday, when the Gophers offense showed its strength once again. Though relatively quiet through the first four innings, Minnesota held a 2-0 lead heading to the top of the fifth. Then the bats exploded. The Gophers put up a 10 runs in the fifth inning, with catcher Kendyl Lindaman hitting two home runs, including a grand slam.