The Minnesota Golden Gophers cleaned up when the Big Ten Softball Season awards were announced on Wednesday. Junior pitcher Amber Fiser was unanimously named the Big Ten’s Pitcher of the Year, as well as named to the All-Big Ten First Team. The Gophers added three other first teamers in junior second baseman Makenna Partain, sophomore first baseman Hope Brandner, and freshman outfielder Natalie DenHartog. DenHartog was also a unanimous selection to the All-Freshman Team.
Minnesota senior outfielder Maddie Houlihan was named to the second team All-Big Ten, and a pair of Gophers in Katelyn Kemmetmueller and Allie Arneson were name to the Big Ten’s All-Defense Team.
Fiser has been on a tear this season for the Gophers. She has won the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week award six times this season, which is the most by any pitcher in program history and tied a Big Ten record. So far this season Fiser is 25-7 with a 1.25 ERA and 281 strikeouts. In 202.1 innings pitched, batters are only hitting .165 against her. She leads the Big Ten in ERA and strikeouts, and is second in wins. Nationally she ranks 16th in ERA, eighth in wins and fifth in strikeouts.
In Big Ten play Fiser has been even better. She was 14-1 with a 1.21 ERA and 156 strikeouts. The junior becomes only the second Gopher to ever win the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Award other than Sara Groenewegen who won the honor in both the 2014 and 2017 seasons.
Minnesota has gotten amazing offensive production from its other three All-Big Ten First Team honorees. Partain has been one of the most underrated players in the country. This is her second straight Big Ten First Team honor. So far this season she has hit .417 and is third in the Big Ten with a .513 on base percentage. She has 15 doubles, four triples, and 32 RBI on the season. Partain uses her speed to get around the basepaths. She leads the team with 13 stolen bases on the season. She ranks third in the country with 1.24 runs per game and her 62 runs this year is second most for a single season in program history. She needs just three runs to tie the school record.
Brandner has been a huge boost to the Gophers offensive production after losing their former offensive powerhouse to transfer. Brandner transfered in from Oregon State and has made an immediate impact. She leads the team with 16 home runs which is the second highest total in program history, and is good enough for second in the Big Ten. She is also batting .354, has 53 RBIs and is slugging .735 on the season.
DenHartog’s season is a great story. The freshman started the season on the bench but fought her way into a lineup spot and has become one of the offensive leaders in the Gopher lineup. Batting in the cleanup spot DenHartog has hit .396 with 15 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs and 58 RBIs with a .840 slugging percentage.
Houlihan is nearing the completion of her Gopher career with another great season. The senior has gotten hot the last few weeks of the regular season and is batting .303 with 11 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 34 RBIs and has scored 38 runs. She earned her third All-Big Ten honor this season.
Kemmetmueller and Arneson’s spots on the All-Defense team have been a part of a major emphasis on defense for this Gopher team. If the season ended right now their .976 fielding percentage would be a new program record. That mark is good for second in the Big Ten and ninth in the entire NCAA.
Arneson, a senior shortstop smashed her career high with 96 assists this season. She has also added 33 putouts and has a .963 fielding percentage, while freshman Kemmetmueller stepped in to play third base this season and has 100 assists with 18 putouts and a .952 fielding percentage at the hot corner.
The Gophers moved up to #8 in the RPI after taking two of three games from previously undefeated in the Big Ten Northwestern Wildcats last weekend to end the regular season. Minnesota by the virtue of playing one less game that the majority of the Big Ten due to weather finished in third place in the Big Ten Regular Season standings and will open the Big Ten Tournament Friday evening against the winner of Rutgers and Purdue in Bloomington, Indiana. Minnesota is looking to win its fourth consecutive Big Ten Tournament. We will have a full preview of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.