The second in our series of What Have Your Missed? moves on to the Minnesota Golden Gophers softball team. And the answer is...A LOT! Yeah..we did a bad job on keeping you updated on all the news coming out of the Gopher softball program over the past few months, and they have been very busy ones for one of the most recently successful Gopher programs. So lets start back in March and work out way to the present:
Gopher Season Comes to Sudden Stop in Hawaii
The final Gopher softball game of the 2020 season was on the gorgeous island of Hawaii. Minnesota scored three runs in the final three innings to record a 3-2 victory in what would have been the middle of the night back here in Minnesota. The next morning the team was getting breakfast at a Denny’s when the got the call that their season was over and nothing would be the same since.
NCAA Gives Spring Athletes Another Year of Eligibility
On March 30, the NCAA approved granting spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility to make up for the lost 2020 season. For Minnesota’s six seniors, that meant tey could come back for a super senior year to try and finish the job they had started or graduate and move onto the “real world”. On April 1st the Gophers got a major present when the first player to say they were coming back for 2021 was Gopher All-American pitcher Amber Fiser. She was followed by four of the Gophers five other seniors including All-American 2nd baseman Makenna Partain. Minnesota would be fully loaded for a chance to return to play in 2021.
Gophers Pick Up Short Season Awards
The season may have been significantly shortened but awards were still given out. Natalie DenHartog, Amber Fiser and Makenna Partain were all named to Softball America’s Top 100 Players of the 2020 season list. DenHartog picked up even more hardware by being named a Softball American First Team Shortened Season All American. She led the Gophers in hits (33), RBIs (28), home runs (7), batting average (.429) and on-base percentage (.537).
DenHartog and Fiser were both named CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-District 6 by the Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America. Fiser was then named a CoSIDA First Team Academic All American a week later. Fiser graduated from the U with a 3.66 GPA and an undergraduate degree in Business and Marketing Education. She will start on a grad degree in the fall as she returns for her 5th year. She was also named the 2020 Golden Goldy Female Athlete of the Year Award for her 2019 All American season.
Jamie Trachsel Resigns to Take Ole Miss Job
The Gopher softball world got a bit of a shock on April 24th when news broke that Minnesota head coach Jamie Trachsel who had been at the U for just a season and whatever you want to call 2020 had resigned her job and was being hired by Ole Miss as their head coach.
This spurred about a week of turmoil as rumors were flying about Trachsel’s mistreatment of players on social media and some Gopher softball supporters actively cheering her decision to leave.. Many others who were not as close in the loop were irate at the U of M for not ponying up to keep a coach who in her first full season had helped the team advance to the College World Series for the first time in program history, While Trachsel is making approximately $100,00 more per season at Ole Miss than she was at the U, we may never know the full story on what Mark Coyle’s thinking was.
Piper Ritter Named New Head Coach
Mark Coyle did not wait too long before hiring Trachsel’s replacement. Coyle named Minnesota assistant/pitching coach Piper Ritter as the Gophers new head coach on May 3rd. Ritter had been a Gopher assistant since 2008 as the pitching coach and helped develop Sarah Moulton. Sara Groenewegen and Fiser into aces. Ritter was an ace herself for the Gophers from 2001-2004 and is in the top five all time in strikeouts at Minnesota.
Ritter’s hiring was universally praised by Gophers past and present, and by the fan base and college softball world at large. Ritter bleeds maroon and gold and has the type of qualities that could make her a very successful coach over a long period of time at Minnesota.
See Mike Grimm talk to Ritter about her getting the job below:
Ritter Raids Arizona State for Assistants
Piper Ritter named her first hire in late May as Carly Wynn was named the Associate Head Coach. Wynn had spend the last five seasons as an assistant at Arizona State. Wynn helped Arizona State to a 135-57 record with a 2018 Women’s College World Series appearance in her time as an assistant there. Wynn was the Sun Devil’s lead recruiting coordinator, camp director and was in charge of alumni outreach. Wynn assisted with all aspects of hitting and was in charge of short game, slappers and baserunning. On the defensive side, she coached an outfield that saw two 2019 All-American honorees in Morgan Howe (First Team) and Kindra Hackbarth (Third Team).
Previous to her time in Tempe Wynn was an assistant coach for four seasons at Fresno State and spend two seasons as a volunteer assistant at her alma matter, Florida State. Wynn was a star player for the Seminoles from 2006-2010 where she ranked Top-10 in four season offensive categories including walks, triples, doubles and slugging percentage. She finished her career ranked Top-10 in seven offensive categories including batting average, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs, walks and slugging percentage. She was a three-time All-ACC honoree, earned All-American honors once.
A month later in June, Ritter named her second assistant coach to her staff. It was a very familiar face to Gopher softball fans as Katie Richardson was named an assistant coach. Richardson was a star player for the Gophers from 2012 through 2015 and was named an All-American in 2013 and 2014. Richardson was electric with the bat. She started every game in her career, 224, Her career marks of 138 walks, 64 doubles and a .678 slugging percentage are all Minnesota records. Her 179 RBIs ranks second all-time, .388 batting average is third and 40 home runs is fourth in school history.
Richardson spend two season in 2017 and 2018 on the same Arizona State coaching staff as Wynn. In 2019 Richardson left the Sun Devils to take a job as a special assistant to the athletic director at Ball State. She now returns to the Gophers as one of the most popular players in recent memory. See Mike Grimm talk to Richardson about her new job below:
Minnesota Announces Big Roster for 2021
One complication of the NCAA’s rule to allow an extra year of eligibility to spring sports athletes is the log jam it then creates on rosters in 2021. Minnesota will be no stranger to that as five of the team’s six seniors will return in 2021 and Minnesota will add eight freshmen to the roster. The Gophers officially announced their freshman class in July. They include:
Ansleigh Hollifield—Pitcher/Utility Dacula, Georgia
Jenna Beckstrom —Utility Lakeville, Minnesota
Rylie Costa—Infielder Tracy, California
Maddy Ehlke—Infielder, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Sara Kinch—Catcher Temecula, California
MacKenzie Denson— Outfielder, Mansfield, Texas
Clare Ceynowa— Catcher Brainard, Minnesota
Chloe Evans—Utility Seymour, Wisconsin
Minnesota will begin fall workouts (maybe) beginning in September. The 2021 season is scheduled to begin in February. Hopefully.