During Tuesday’s practice at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium, the scoreboard still displayed the result from Minnesota’s 5-4 walk-off win over Indiana last Sunday. While the scoreboard symbolizes the end of one season for the Gophers softball team, it also symbolizes the beginning of another.
The Gophers knew for a while they would move to the Big Ten conference next season. The only question was which team they would open Big Ten play against. Minnesota announced Wednesday that it will face Wisconsin on Nov. 29-30 at Mariucci Arena for its inaugural Big Ten series. Wisconsin, like the Gophers, is moving to the Big Ten from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State are the other Big Ten schools with Division I hockey programs.
Needing wins to secure a top seed in the Big Ten tournament, the Gophers took care of business this weekend against lowly Indiana. Minnesota swept the Hoosiers with an 8-0 and a 1-0 win in a doubleheader Saturday and 5-4 win Sunday afternoon. The wins secured a top-four seed in the single-elimination Big Ten tournament, which means the Gophers will receive a first-round bye.
Their head coach wasn’t aware of it, but the Gophers own the best fielding percentage in the Big Ten. Minnesota has a .970 fielding percentage, which is calculated by adding putouts and assists and dividing that number by the number of opportunities (putouts, assists and errors).
The cold temperatures and wintry mix that fell in Minneapolis on Wednesday forced the cancelation of both the Gophers baseball and softball games. The baseball team was scheduled to play Division III St. Thomas. Wednesday’s cancellation was Minnesota’s fifth of the season. Two other games have been postponed. The Gophers will travel to State College, Pa., this weekend for a three-game series against Penn State.
The Gophers softball team has won 30 games for the third straight season after taking two of three from Ohio State during the weekend. It’s the first time since 2002-04 that the Gophers have won 30 games in three straight seasons. Minnesota has five games left in the regular season. The turnaround is in sync with the hiring of Jessica Allister, who is in her third season as the Gophers’ head coach.
Life threw freshman Nikki Anderson a curveball a week before she had the chance to throw one for the Gophers. “I went to the ER for what felt like a heart attack,” Anderson said. She had gallstones, pieces of solid material that form in the gallbladder and can block the flow of acids through the intestines. She needed surgery to remove her gallbladder right before Minnesota’s opening weekend. She was back on the mound a week later.
Minnesota (28-15, 9-5 Big Ten) swept Iowa State in a doubleheader Wednesday in Ames, Iowa. The Gophers won the first game 12-6 and the second game 13-1. The Gophers are 5-0 in home games that have been moved to their opponent’s venue. Minnesota took the lead in the first game on a two-run home run by freshman Kayla Wenner. Sophomore Tyler Walker added another two-run homer in the top of the sixth, giving Minnesota a 9-1 lead. The Cyclones chased five runs across the plate in the bottom of the sixth but could not complete the comeback.
Perhaps lost in the breath of fresh air at the Gophers’ new Siebert Field was the fact that Minnesota’s weather, even in April, can be treacherous. The weather forced the Gophers to cancel their three-game series with Michigan State during the weekend. It’s the first time since 2007 the Gophers have had an entire Big Ten series canceled.
The Gophers have a chance to redeem themselves at home this weekend after a disappointing midweek doubleheader on the road. Minnesota (26-15, 9-5 Big Ten) will welcome Michigan State, the team directly behind them in the Big Ten standings, to the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium for a three-game series beginning Friday. The Gophers have been working toward offensive consistency all season, but Tuesday’s doubleheader losses at Nebraska showed there is work to be done.
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