The No. 12/8 University of Minnesota Gophers earned their highest overall seed ever on Selection Sunday with the No. 7 seed and welcome No. 14/16 Georgia, No. 25/24 Drake and North Dakota State University to the Minneapolis Regional this weekend.
The Gophers will play NDSU on Friday, May 17 at 8:30 p.m. The game can be viewed on ESPN3. Drake and Georgia will meet at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
COMPETITION SCHEDULE (all times CT)
Game 1: Georgia vs Drake – 6:00pm ESPN 2
Game 2: Minnesota vs North Dakota State: 8:30pm ESPN 3
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs Game 2 winner: 3:00pm
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs Game 2 loser: 5:30pm
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs Game 4 winner: 8:00pm
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs Game 5 winner: 3:00pm
Game 7 (if necessary): Game 6 winner vs Game 6 loser: 5:30pm
(Additional general admission seat tickets will available at the gate for each game one hour prior to first pitch.)
Minnesota went 41-12 and 20-2 in the Big Ten this year. For the fourth straight year they made it to the Big Ten Tournament championship game but fell 3-2 to Michigan with a comeback effort falling just short. The Gophers had won the previous three tournament titles. This is the seventh straight year the Gophers have made the NCAA Tournament. It is the first time they are hosting since 2014, the only year the team has advanced to Super Regionals.
Eight different Gophers came away with end of the year Big Ten hardware. Amber Fiser was a unanimous selection for the Pitcher of the Year and First team. Natalie DenHartog was also a First Team and All-Freshman Team unanimous selection. MaKenna Partain and Hope Brandner joined Fiser and DenHartog as First Team honorees. Maddie Houlihan picked up Second Team honors while Katelyn Kemmetmueller and Allie Arneson earned spots on the All-Defensive Team. Emily Hansen was named a Sportsmanship Award honoree.
Fiser is 26-7 with three saves, a 1.24 ERA and 301 strikeouts. Her ERA and strikeout numbers lead the Big Ten. She is 15th in the country in ERA, tenth in wins and fifth in strikeouts. She picked up six Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors this season, which set a new program record and tied a conference record. She is just the third player in conference history to earn six Pitcher of the Week honors in the same season and the first since 2011. She also picked up two Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Pitcher of the Week honors this season.
The Gophers have proven to be well balanced. They lead the Big Ten and are tenth in the country in ERA with 1.72, are second in fielding percentage and seventh in the NCAA at .978 and lead in home runs and are 12th in the country at 68 this season. If the season ended right now the Gophers would have a new program record for fielding percentage. The current record is .975 from the 2008 season.
Speaking of records, Partain is on pace to break the school single season runs record. She has 63 runs this season which second most all-time in program history. Rachel Nelson notched 65 runs in the 1996 season. Partain is one of the least talked about stars in the entire country. She is leading the team with a .407 average and has 16 doubles, four triples, five home runs and 13 stolen bases this season.
Partain has set the table while DenHartog and Brandner have brought her home. DenHartog’s 59 RBIs is 13th in the country while Brandner’s 56 is good for 21st in the nation. DenHartog is hitting .392 with 15 doubles, two triples and 16 home runs. She is a top-10 finalist for Freshman of the Year. Brandner is batting .357 with eight doubles and 18 home runs. She is two home runs shy of tying the school single season home run record.
The North Dakota State Bison are 42-14 overall and 16-2 in Summit League action. The Bison defeated South Dakota 6-0 and 3-1 to claim the Summit League title and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Senior right-hander KK Leddy is leading the Bison in the circle with a 2.22 ERA in 186.1 innings. Leddy has only allowed 31 earned runs, 139 hits and has struck out a team best 174 batters. Redshirt senior Katie Shoultz is batting a team high .395 and has a team best 40 runs. Maddie Hansen, a senior catcher, leads the team with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs. Hansen is batting .336 with 31 runs, 50 hits and 10 doubles. As a team, North Dakota State is batting .310. The pitching staff has a combined ERA of 2.45.
The Georgia Bulldogs are 40-17 and 12-12 in the SEC. The Bulldogs fell to Alabama 2-1 in eight innings in the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Alyssa DiCarlo leads the team in every batting category. The Top-10 Collegiate Player of the Year finalist is batting .391 with 14 doubles and 21 home runs. DiCarlo, a senior infielder, has 61 runs, 61 hits and 54 RBIs on the season. Junior Ciara Bryan has posted a .320 batting average with 46 runs, 57 hits, 10 home runs and 34 RBIs.
In the circle, left-hander Kylie Bass has posted a 12-4 record and 1.96 ERA. As a team, Georgia is batting .303 and has compiled a 2.32 ERA.
The Drake Bulldogs are 42-24 overall and 24-2 in the Missouri Valley conference. They topped UNI 4-1 in their conference championship to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
After last week’s performance, redshirt senior Nicole Newman earned USA Softball Player of the Week honors after pitching her fifth perfect game of the season. Newman was also named a finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award. The right-hander has recorded a 0.88 ERA and 28-6 record. She has allowed just 74 hits, 26 earned runs and has struck out 393 batters. The Redshirt senior is holding her opponents to a .107 batting average.
Infielder Mandi Roemmich is batting .385 with a team high 50 runs. The junior has recorded 70 hits, 32 RBIs and 12 doubles. Kennedy Frank, a senior infielder, is batting .327 with 27 runs, 49 hits, 10 doubles and 40 RBIs. The Gophers topped Drake twice earlier in the season.
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)