The University of Minnesota softball team is in Columbus for this weekend's Big Ten Tournament. The Gophers won the title last year with a thrilling bottom of the 7th walk-off win against top seeded Michigan. The Wolverines are once again the #1 seed, but the Gophers have moved up a spot from the #3 seed in 2014 to the #2 seed this season.
The Gophers and Wolverines are the cream of the Big Ten crop this season, and nationally. The Wolverines enter the Big Ten Tournament ranked third in both college softball polls, while the gophers are #9 in one and #12 in another. The Wolverines won the Big ten with a 48-6 record this season, while the Gophers were just two games back at 46-8. The third place team, Nebraska finished at 32-20, twelve games back of the Gophers.
Both the Gophers and Wolverines are led by players who are in the Top 10 finalists for College Player of the Year. Sara Groenewegen, a sophomore pitcher and first baseman for the Gophers is the Big Ten Player of the Year, while Michigan is led by Sierra Romero who hit .464 on the season for the Wolverines.
This weekend is also critical for the Gophers as they currently rank 15th in the nation in RPI. If the Gophers can make it to the Big Ten Championship game, they would appear to be in good shape to host a NCAA Regional at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium next weekend. The Gophers hosted a regional a year ago and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals the following weekend before being eliminated by #1 Oregon.
The Gophers will begin play in the Big Ten Tournament Friday night at 7:00 Central. The Gophers will play the winner of the #7 seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the #10 Iowa Hawkeyes. The Gophers dinod t play Rutgers in the regular season, and swept a three game series from Iowa at home winning all three games via the run rule. Ifr the Gophers advance to the semi-finals at 5:00 Saturday night, the Gophers will play either host and #6 seed Ohio State, #11 seed Indiana, or #3 seed Nebraska. The Gophers only played the Cornhuskers this season taking two out of three games in Lincoln. The Championship game will be at 2:30 on Sunday. All games will air live on BTN, so tune in and see if the Gophers can win back to back titles!
The Big Ten Tournament Bracket is below: