In final season, Maddie Houlihan looks to lead Gophers to another Big Ten title

Houlihan has a batting average of .310 and has driven in 16 runs this season.

Gophers sophomore Maddie Houlihan hits the ball against Purdue at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Saturday, April 30, 2017.

Carter Jones, Daily File Photo

Gophers sophomore Maddie Houlihan hits the ball against Purdue at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Saturday, April 30, 2017.

Erik Nelson

Right fielder Maddie Houlihan was Minnesota’s hero against Maryland this weekend. 

In the Gophers’ first Big Ten series of the season, Houlihan led Minnesota offensively with a .667 batting average and drove in six runs. The highlight of her weekend came on Saturday. The Gophers trailed the Terrapins 4-2 heading into the top of the sixth inning. With the bases loaded, Houlihan smacked a grand slam to give Minnesota a 6-4 lead. It was her second home run of the season. 

Overall, Houlihan’s batting average this season is .310. She has driven in 16 runs and has stolen four bases.

Head coach Jamie Trachsel said Houlihan steps up in big moments.

“She finds a way to get the job done,” Trachsel said. “The bigger the moment, the more she comes to you. She’s fiesty, she’s a winner [and] she’s always performed well in the Big Ten. She’s ‘Ms. Big Ten.’ Her leadership and her ability to come through and stay composed under pressure in big moments has been huge for us.”

Houlihan graduated from Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park, Minnesota in 2015. She attended Benilde along with Minnesota women’s hockey captain Kelly Pannek, who graduated a year before her. 

Houlihan said she looked up to Pannek as a mentor.

“We knew each other,” Houlihan said. “She had great success in high school. I knew that she was going to the U. Once I decided to come here, we had that in common. She had an amazing career. She was a role model.”

Houlihan had a career batting average of .600 at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. She holds every hitting record in Scarlet Knights history. 

After her performance against the Terrapins, Houlihan was named the Big Ten Player of the Week. It was her third Big Ten Player of the Week honor.

Houlihan said she likes to stay calm in the batter’s box.

“I [have confidence] I can beat any type of pitching I’m seeing,” she said. “I look to hit good pitches and hope that things work out.”

Second baseman MaKenna Partain said she knows Houlihan will produce. Houlihan hits second in Minnesota’s lineup behind Partain. 

“Any time I step up to the plate, I have someone behind me that I have 100 percent confidence in,” Partain said. “She’s the type of person that is gritty in the box. A lot of our pitchers in practice hate pitcher because she’s one of the hardest people to get out. She’s constantly hitting balls, fouling them off, whatever she has to do to get on base. I don’t think there’s many hitters like her.” 

No. 19 Minnesota (22-9, 3-0 Big Ten) faces Purdue (23-10, 2-1 Big Ten) this weekend at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minnesota’s first home series of the season. Houlihan said she’s looking forward to playing in front of Gophers fans.

“It’s going to be amazing,” she said. “I’ve loved every game I’ve been able to play at home. To get back home after a couple of weeks on the road will be exciting.”