Minnesota looks to rebound against Iowa

The Gophers lost just their fifth game of the year Sunday afternoon.

Minnesotas Sara Groenewegen pitches against Illinois on Saturday, March 29, 2014, at St. Thomas University.

Image by Daily File Photo, Stephen Offerman

Minnesota’s Sara Groenewegen pitches against Illinois on Saturday, March 29, 2014, at St. Thomas University.

by Jared Christensen

Minnesota will look to continue its dream season Tuesday when it travels to Iowa City, Iowa, for a doubleheader against the Hawkeyes.

The No. 14 Gophers are fresh off a disappointing split in Sunday’s doubleheader against rival Wisconsin, while Iowa is coming off a thrilling walk-off win over Northwestern on Sunday afternoon.

Minnesota played well Sunday afternoon, but fielding errors — three in the first game alone — and baserunning blunders brought the Gophers their fifth loss of the season in a game in which they gave up no earned runs.

Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister said fixing those mistakes will make all the difference against Iowa.

“We have to play defense, but overall, the loss Sunday wasn’t a lack of ability; it was just a lack of execution,” she said. “We know we can fix those things moving forward.”

While the team will need to fix those mistakes, its pitching staff has afforded it some room for errors this season.

A big part of that pitching dominance has stemmed from the emergence of Minnesota freshman Sara Groenewegen.

Groenewegen’s performance against Wisconsin earned her Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors and her second consecutive recognition for Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week. Her rate of 11.5 strikeouts per seven innings is the second-highest in the nation.

Allister said that dominance in the pitcher’s circle has been essential to the team’s success so far this year.

“I think pitching is the name of the game,” she said, “and our pitching staff gives us the opportunity to go out and win games against any team in the country.”

Gophers first-team All-Big Ten infielder Kaitlyn Richardson said the loss to Wisconsin gives the team the opportunity to refocus and improve itself moving forward.

“Nobody likes to lose,” she said, “but if you learn from it, it can be a good thing for us.”

Though the Gophers’ pitchers have led the team this year, the bats will also look to return to proper form after being quieted by Wisconsin.

Minnesota scored four runs Sunday — tied for the fewest it’s scored in any two-game span this year.

Still, sophomore catcher Taylor LeMay said fans should expect a different outcome Tuesday.

“I know everybody’s pumped for this series,” she said. “We’re ready to whoop Iowa.”