Only five days after the Gophers fell down to fifth in the Big Ten standings after a 1-2 series with Michigan, Minnesota settled itself back among the conference best.
This weekendâÄôs three-game series between Minnesota and Northwestern will double as a family affair for the teamsâÄô coaching staffs. Assistant coach Jessica Merchant and volunteer assistant coach Macy Merchant will represent the Merchant family in the GophersâÄô dugout, while Brittini Merchant, a volunteer assistant coach at Northwestern, will be sitting in the opposite dugout.
Danielle Parlich spews words out of her mouth at such a fast rate her teammates said they canâÄôt ignore them. Parlich, or âÄúNelâÄù as her family and friends call her, has given the Gophers an upbeat but gritty presence in the dugout. âÄúWe joke about this all the time. SheâÄôs just really boppy, and [we joke], âÄòSheâÄôs a freshman.âÄô We can definitely tell that sheâÄôs a freshman. SheâÄôs goofy and she keeps it lighthearted in the dugout,âÄù sophomore Sara Groenewegen said. Though Parlich is a typical freshman in the dugout, she acts anything but her age on the field.
During Friday’s series opener with a fellow top-15 opponent, Minnesota finished off the Wolverines in just six innings, handing them a 9-1 drubbing.
During last season’s Big Ten championship game, Minnesota sent top-seeded Michigan home with a walk-off single to solidify a 3-2 victory. This weekend, the No. 4 Wolverines will attempt to avenge the loss as they take on the 12th-ranked Gophers.
Head coach Jessica Allister wants to get her pitching staff back to the dominant force it was last season. Led by Sara Moulton and now-sophomore Sara Groenewegen, the consistent one-two punch was among the conference’s best. When Moulton graduated, Groenewegen stepped in as the team’s ace, and the team has used freshman Kylie Stober and Junior Nikki Anderson as its second starters.
With a sweep of Illinois over the weekend, Minnesota set a program record for most consecutive wins. Stretching back to the beginning of March, the Gophers have won their last 13 games. Much of their success has been due to the offensive outburst provided throughout the lineup. Two of the Gophers’ three victories against Illinois ended early due to Minnesota reaching the run rule. “You can’t count on scoring eight runs every game. We’re getting a lot of runs up and down the lineup right now,” head coach Jessica Allister said.
Throughout its unpredictable season, Minnesota has never shied away from talking about the NCAA tournament. The Gophers reached that goal, but they quickly exited the tournament with a first-round loss on Friday, falling to DePaul 79-72 in South Bend, Ind. “We said we’d make the tournament, and that’s what we did. Even though it’s my first and last time, I’m proud to be a part of a team that fought so hard all year,” senior forward Shae Kelley said at a press conference.
Selection Monday is less than a week away, and Minnesota head coach Marlene Stollings is confident her team will appear on the bracket. “We feel very secure in getting an NCAA bid,” Stollings said after Minnesota’s loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament. “You never really know until selection Monday, and we realize that. But we feel that our tournament resume is extremely solid with the 23 wins, where our RPI is.”
Last season, then-junior Hannah Granger had just 27 hits. This season, the utility player has already surpassed that total with 30 in 22 games, and her increased role as a lineup regular has helped lead the team to an 18-4 start. “She put together a good fall and put together a good winter,” head coach Jessica Allister said. “We were pretty sure [we were going to start her] before we got going. She’s made it impossible for me not to start her.”
While many Minnesotans had their eyes glued to their ...READ MORE