Constistent Walker key to Minnesota’s fast starts

Minnesota infielder Tyler Walker attempts to steal a base against Wisconsin on April 7, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Jaak Jensen, Daily File Photo

Minnesota infielder Tyler Walker attempts to steal a base against Wisconsin on April 7, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Matt Greenstein

Before every home at-bat, Tyler Walker slowly makes her way to the batter’s box, nodding her head to her chosen walkup song that plays from the speakers inside Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
 
Walker can always count on her song — “Got it” by Marian Hill — to play before her time at the plate, just as the Gophers can count on the senior infielder to start their offense.
 
“[Her walk-up song] gets her into compete mode and into the moment, and I think that we use that to our advantage,” assistant coach Jessica Merchant said.
 
Walker has started all 40 games for Minnesota, giving the team a consistent force at the top of the lineup. As the Gophers’ leadoff hitter, Walker said she takes her role on the team very seriously.
 
“If I can get on, then I’ve done my job,” Walker said. “If I can get to first, take a base, get to third and score, I’ve done my job.”
 
Walker leads the team in total at-bats and is tied for the team best in doubles.
 
But her ability to hit for extra bases doesn’t end there. 
 
While most leadoff hitters aren’t known for their power, Walker puts the misconception to rest.
 
The California native is one of nine Big Ten players to hit 10 or more home runs on the season and is among the conference leaders in runs batted in.
 
“When she puts together the quality at-bats, it gives our team a lot of confidence,” head coach Jessica Allister said.
 
Walker’s impact stretches beyond just her consistent play in the batter’s box. She’s one of the Gophers’ most aggressive players on the base paths and is among the team’s leaders in stolen bases.
 
“[Walker] has great instincts on the bases,” said Merchant, who is also the team’s first base coach. “She knows the ball that she can go on, she knows the ball she should tag on. She has outstanding base-running instincts, and I think that and her speed are what allow her to be such a dangerous baserunner.”
 
Walker’s aggressiveness on the base paths and abilities in the batter’s box make her one of the team’s leaders on the field.
 
But Merchant is also fond of Walker’s abilities off the field.
 
“The greatest thing about Tyler is that she’s just a fun kid to be around,” Merchant said. “I think she brings a good energy to the team.”
 
The Gophers seem to bring a competitive edge to each game they play, and it starts when “Got It” plays through the stadium’s loudspeakers. 
 
“We talk about in games just ‘slamming the door,’” Walker said last month. “By that, we mean as long as there’s an out left for the other team, that gives them hope to come back. We want to continue to ‘slam the door’ on defense and keep putting runs up offensively.”