The Gopher Softball Team took home all three Big Ten weekly Awards on Monday after a midweek doubleheader sweep at Wisconsin and a weekend sweep of Iowa at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. They were just three of a series of honors the Gophers have already achieved this season—with eight regular season games left to play.
Minnesota swept the Badgers last Tuesday in Madison 6-0 in 12 innings, and 12-1. The Gophers then took it to Iowa this weekend by scores of 5-0, 9-1, and 3-0. Minnesota is now 16-1 in Big Ten play and has a two game lead over Michigan for the conference lead.
Minnesota earned all three Big Ten awards after their demolishment of the Badgers and Hawkeyes. Sophomore Maddie Houlihan was named the Big Ten Player of the Week after hitting .526 with 10 hits, two home runs, eight rbi, seven runs, and a slugging percentage of .842! She recorded all thee rbi in the 3-0 Sunday victory over Iowa in front of a Jane Sage Cowles Stadium record crowd of 1,383. She hit an inside the park home run that scored two runs, and then knocked in the third run with a single up the middle.
WATCH: An inside the park home run breaks the tie! That was way too cool @Madz_Houlihoop! pic.twitter.com/njIk0u5zbM— Minnesota Softball (@GopherSoftball) April 23, 2017
Sara Gronewegen was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the second week in a row and fourth time this season, after an impressive even for her week. She went 3-0, struck out 35 batters and did not allow a run in a victory over Wisconsin and a pair of wins over Iowa. Last Tuesday Gronewegen single handedly kept the Gophers in the opening game of the doubleheader at Wisconsin. She went the distance in a 12-inning, 15 strikeout shutout effort. The threw two more shutouts on Friday and Sunday against the Hawkeyes bringing her season record to 22-2 with an insane 0.52 ERA.
Kendyl Lindaman was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the sixth time this season. Lindaman set several milestones this week. Against Wisconsin in the first game of the doubleheader she was walked five times breaking the Gopher record and tying a Big Ten record for most times walked in a single game. When the Badgers finally pitched to her she drove in two runs in the 12th inning with an RBI single. Against Iowa on Friday Lindaman cranked another tape measure home run off of the under construction football indoor practice area over the left field fence. That home run was her 15th of the season which tied the Gopher record for most home runs in a single season. There are 8 games left in the regular season. Wowza. Lindaman finished the week with a batting average of .417, a slugging percentage of .667 and an on base percentage of .667.
The best @Kendyl_23 HR yet...— Minnesota Softball (@GopherSoftball) April 22, 2017
1. We aren't kidding
2. Gather friends
3. Buckle up and press play
4. Thank us later https://t.co/Q7GZGGlkWP
Lindaman and fellow Gopher freshman MaKenna Partain were both named to the list of 25 finalists for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year. Minnesota was one of only two schools (the other being Arizona) two have two players make the list of 25 finalists. The Top-10 will be announced on Thursday, May 11, the Top-3 will be announced on Wednesday, May 24 and the National Freshman of the Year will be announced on Tuesday, May 30. If Lindaman keeps up her current pace, she has a very realistic chance to win the award.
Groenewegen also received an additional honor Monday night. She was the second overall selection in the National Pro Fastpitch Collegiate Draft. She was selected by the Akron Racers.
Congrats @saragroe on being selected #2 in the @profastpitch draft! Trust us @AkronRacers, you got a good one! 〽️— Minnesota Softball (@GopherSoftball) April 25, 2017
➡️ https://t.co/ycb6tLugqH pic.twitter.com/UXPZZMOCqL
While Minnesota keeps shooting up in the rankings in the various polls, the one the Gophers care about the most was revealed on Saturday. The NCAA released their rankings of the Top Ten teams in the country, and Minnesota was ranked #8 in the nation.
The ranking is based on the criteria used to select and seed the 64 teams for the NCAA Tournament. #Gophers come in at No. 8. https://t.co/IntimSuO0l— Minnesota Softball (@GopherSoftball) April 23, 2017
The Gophers want to remain 8th or higher in the rankings to have the best opportunity to host both a regional and super regional at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. Minnesota will need to nearly win out to do that however, as their strength of schedule will be hampered the rest of the way in the regular season. The Gophers currently sit at #11 in RPI. Minnesota will host North Dakota State for a doubleheader on Wednesday before they host Purdue for a weekend series this weekend, and head to Penn State to finish the Big Ten Regular Season the following weekend. Both the Boilermakers and Nittany Lions rank in the bottom third of the Big Ten this season.
Minnesota will play their last five regular season home games this week at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium, so if you want to catch one of the hottest teams in the nation, this could be your chance until the NCAA Tournament.