The No. 21/21 University of Minnesota Gophers are hitting the road for an 11-day spring break trip that will see them compete in a tournament, face another top-10 team and begin conference play.
It all starts this weekend in Tamp Bay, Fla. with two games against USF and games against Wichita State, Florida Gulf Coast and Butlers. Both USF games can be streamed by heading here. The Gophers are 10-2 in their last 12 games and have three ranked wins (one over No. 19 James Madison and two over No. 9 Texas) in that span. On Wednesday, Minnesota will play No. 7/7 Florida. They will open Big Ten play at Maryland the following Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The Gophers returned their entire pitching staff from a season ago and have used all five so far in the 2019 season. Amber Fiser earned preseason All-American nods and has been strong despite taking on the top teams in the country week after week. She tossed three complete game victories while only allowing one earned run with 37 strikeouts at the Wildcat Invitational. She was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, the FastPitchNews National Player of the Week and Louisville Slugger/NFCA Pitcher of Week for her performance. Last week she picked up a save and a win over No. 9 Texas. She is 8-5 with a 1.52 ERA and 105 strikeouts already this season. Her 105 strikeouts rank No. 10 in the NCAA. Sydney Smith is 5-2 on the season with a 2.29 ERA and 30 strikeouts. The Maple Grove, Minn. native picked up two wins over the weekend including one over No. 9 Texas. She tossed a career high 11 strikeouts against Texas Southern. Rachel Lowary has 14 strikeouts in just 8.2 innings of work and has not allowed a run. She picked up a big save over No. 9 Texas. Hannah Bailey started her first career game against Texas Southern and pitched a complete game shutout.
Minnesota has attacked early and often this season. They have scored first in 18 games this season and have gotten on the board in the first inning in 10 games already. The Maroon and Gold have counted on the long ball all season with 25 home runs on the year. Freshman Natalie DenHartog leads the way with seven already this year. She was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week this past week after hitting three home runs at the Longhorn Invitational. She leads the team with a .843 slugging percentage. Hope Brandner has added six home runs on the season and leads the team with 26 RBIs. Seventeen home runs have come from players that never had a collegiate home run before this season. Against Kent State, the Gophers hit a program record six home runs in a single game.
MNN Sports Director Mike Grimm talked with Gopher senior captain Maddie Houlihan of Plymouth, who attended Benilde-St. Margaret’s:
Quick hitters: The Gopher rank first in the Big Ten with a .975 fielding percentage. Head coach Jamie Trachsel reached 300 career wins in the Gophers 3-1 win over Texas last Sunday. The Gophers are a perfect 5-0 on Sundays this season. Ace Amber Fiser has a first degree black belt in Taekwondo. Utility Carlie Brandt has played seven positions in her collegiate career: all three outfield spots, second base, shortstop, DP and pitcher. MaKenna Partain already has three triples this year which ranks first in the Big Ten. Maddie Houlihan is sixth all-time in program history for runs scored with 160. She is just five off of tying for fourth with Danielle Parlich and Shannon Beeler. The Gophers are ranked No. 15 in the newly created Softball America poll.
Butler is 8-10 on the season. At the Saluki Invitational Butler fell to UIC and Southern Illinois and defeated Green Bay (11-0). They took on the Army on Tuesday and won in a 6-3 decision. The Bulldogs play the Army and NDSU Wednesday before competing in the USF Tournament. Senior outfielder, Jenna Foreman, is batting .377 with 13 runs, 23 hits and two RBIs. Sammy Andersen, a senior catcher, is batting .300 with eight runs, 12 hits and seven RBIs. In the circle Alyssa Graves has recorded a 3.28 era in 47.0 innings pitched. The sophomore has tallied 48 strikeouts. Butler’s Pitching staff has combined for a 3.59 era and 94 strikeouts
ABOUT SOUTH FLORIDA
South Florida is 19-10 on the season. The Bulls competed in the USF-Clearwater Parks and Recreation Showcase Tournament this past weekend where they beat Wisconsin, UMASS and St. Johns and fell to Indiana. USF played Colgate in a doubleheader on Tuesday and came away with the sweep. They will play Purdue on Thursday before taking on Minnesota Friday. AnaMarie Bruni is leading the team, batting .395 with 24 runs,34 hits and six RBI. Redshirt sophomore Bethaney Keen has posted a.354 batting average, 11 runs, 29 hits and 24 RBI. Keen has recorded six doubles and three home runs. Georgina Corrick has struck out 92 batters in 71. 1 innings. The sophomore has recorded a 1.18 era and has given up 12 earned runs.The Bull’s itching staff has compiled a 2.18 era and 176 strikeouts.
ABOUT WICHITA STATE
Wichita State is 17-5 overall after sweeping Nebraska this past weekend. The Shockers will take on UT-Chattanooga, NDSU, and Townson before facing the Gophers in the USF Tournament. Wylie Glover is leading the team, batting .400 with 12 runs and six RBIs. Wichita State has five players batting over .300: Laurie Derrico (.338), Bailee Nickerson (.333), Asea Webber (.328), Neleigh Herring (.327) and Madison Perrigan (.323). In the circle, sophomore Caitlin Bingham has posted a 1.93 ERA in 65.1 innings while striking out 58 batters. Erin McDonald is leading the pitching staff with a 1.91 ERA. In 51.1 innings, the sophomore has tallied 41 strikeouts. The pitching staff has combined for 107 strikeouts and a 2.19 ERA.
ABOUT FLORIDA GULF COAST
Florida Gulf Coast is now 10-10 on the season. They went 3-1 at the San Diego Classic the first weekend of March. The Eagles fell to BYU, San Diego and Boise State. FGCU split with No. 16 Indiana on Tuesday. They will play LIU Brooklyn, Seton Hall and Quinnipiac before facing the Gophers. Racquel Fournet is leading the team, batting .313 with 20 hits, five runs, 11 RBIs and seven doubles. Riley Randolph has recorded a 0.75 ERA in 13 appearances in the circle. In 83.2 innings, the senior has struck out 110 batters and allowed only nine earned runs. Randolph’s 0.75 ERA ranks 10th among the NCAA. The pitching staff has combined for a 1.61 ERA, which is 11th in the NCAA.
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)