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Gopher Softball: Big Ten Tournament Preview and Awards Recap!

It's Tourny Time!

Gopher Senior Kaitlyn Richardson was named to the All-Big Ten First Team!
Gopher Senior Kaitlyn Richardson was named to the All-Big Ten First Team!
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The Gopher Softball team enters this weekend's Big Ten Softball Tournament after one of  the best regular seasons in school history.  The Gophers are currently ranked #12/14 in the country and have a 38-9 overall record.  The Gophers finished 16-6, good enough for third place in the Big Ten.  The Gophers winning percentage of 0.809 is the highest in the school's history.

The Gophers received the third seed in the Big Ten Tournament taking place this weekend in Evanston, Illinois.  The Gophers got a first round bye into Friday morning's quarterfinals where they will take on #6 seed Purdue who defeated #11 seed Indiana in the opening round this morning.  The Gophers took two out of three games in West Lafayette from Purdue in the last series of the regular season last weekend. They now have a 23-21 all-time record against the Boilermakers.   The rest of the tournament breaks out like the following:

#3 Minnesota vs #6 Purdue-11AM Friday------------------------Winner vs

#2 Nebraska vs # 7 Ohio State 1:30PM Friday------------------Winner   2:30 Saturday

#1 Michigan vs #9 Illinois 4:30PM Friday----------------------------Winner vs

#4 Wisconsin vs #5 Northwestern 7:00PM Fri-----------------------Winner 5:00 Saturday

The winner of the two semifinals will play for the Big Ten Championship and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth at 7:30 Saturday night. All of the games starting Friday morning will air live on the BTN.   Multiple Big Ten teams will make the NCAA field of 64, as the Big Ten has five of the top 40 RPI's in the country with Minnesota at 17, Michigan at 18, Nebraska at 19, Northwestern at 37 and Wisconsin at 38.

The Gophers lost in the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament to Wisconsin as the #3 seed last season.  They advanced to the NCAA Tournament where they played in a regional in Seattle, WA and were eliminated by Hawaii.

The Gophers have been led by their two starting pitchers all season long.  Senior Sara Moulton earned her fourth consecutive All-Big Ten award this season after being named to the second team.  She earned her spot going 9-4 in Big Ten play with a 2.43 ERA, which was good enough for 6th in the Big Ten as were her 64 strikeouts and .240 opponent batting average.  Moulton broke the school record for strikeouts earlier this season and currently has 1,154 for her career. going into this weekend.  She also has 109 wins as a Gopher setting that all-time school record as well.  However, Moulton hasn't even been the best pitcher on her team this season.

That recognition would go to freshman Sara Groenewegen. She went 7-2 in Big Ten play with a Big Ten best .142 opponents batting average, and second best 1.81 ERA and 104 strikeouts.  She pitched a no-hitter against Penn State earlier this season.  Wednesday she was named Minnesota's first ever Big Ten Pitcher of the Year award winner.  She was also named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year as well. Yesterday she was also named one of ten finalists for the NCAA Freshman of the Year.  If her pitching stats weren't enough, she also wields a big stick at the plate hitting .303 with a .591 slugging percentage, and five home runs.  She was one of three Gopher players to be named to the All-Big Ten First Team.

The other two Gophers honored with All-Big Ten First Team accolades were junior infielders Tyler Walker and Kaitlyn Richardson.  Walker was named to the All-Big Ten First Team for the second consecutive season after hitting .400 with the league's best slugging percentage at .871.  She was third in the conference in RBIs and fifth in on base percentage and home runs.  She added nine doubles, three triples and seven steals putting her in the top 6 in all three categories in the Big Ten.

Richardson also was named to the All-Big Ten First Team for the second consecutive season.  She hit .271 on the season and was third in the Big Ten with 16 walks.

The Gophers will have positive match-ups leading to their potential spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.  The Gophers went 2-1 against both Purdue and potential semi-final opponent Nebraska, and did not play other potential semi-final opponent Ohio State.  The only team the Gophers do not have a winning record against in the Big ten this season is Michigan, who the Gophers are 1-2 against this season.  They may meet again in the Championship Game Saturday night, and hopefully, the Gophers will  come out on top this time and claim only their second Big ten Tournament Championship.