Gophers sweep despite site change

The sweep was Minnesota’s second of the conference season.

Minnesota infielder Tyler Walker attempts to steal a base during a double header against Madison on Sunday, April 7, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Jaak Jensen, Daily File Photo

Minnesota infielder Tyler Walker attempts to steal a base during a double header against Madison on Sunday, April 7, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Drew Claussen

The Gophers softball team continued its hot start in Big Ten play by sweeping Illinois during the weekend.

Minnesota (26-13, 9-3 Big Ten) played in Champaign, Ill., despite being the home team in the series. The three games were scheduled to be played in Minneapolis, but crummy weather forced a last-minute switch to Illinois.

The Gophers won a doubleheader 5-1 and 2-0 on Saturday before completing the sweep with a 9-3 victory Sunday.

Head coach Jessica Allister said the team took the location change in stride.

“I’m incredibly impressed,” Allister said.

It was the Gophers’ second conference sweep of the season. Minnesota swept Iowa last month.

This is the first time the Gophers have had two conference sweeps in one season since 2008, when they won a two-game series against Michigan State and Wisconsin.

A third-inning grand slam by sophomore Kaitlyn Richardson broke a 1-1 tie in Sunday’s game and proved to be the game-winner.

The Illini scored two runs in the top of the fifth, but sophomore Tyler Walker responded with a three-run home run in the bottom of the inning.

Both Minnesota and Illinois had four hits Sunday, but the Gophers had 12 walks.

Minnesota pitched well during the weekend, led by junior ace Sara Moulton, who picked up her 21st and 22nd victories of the season.

Moulton pitched all seven innings in Saturday’s first game, striking out 11 batters.

Walker had two home runs in that game, and senior Alex Davis had one, too.

“[Walker] had a big breakout weekend,” Allister said of her leadoff hitter. “It was really important for our team that Ty came out and set the tone.”

In game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, freshman Nikki Anderson tossed five shutout innings and Moulton earned a two-inning save.

Anderson had a strong response to getting roughed up in an outing last weekend against Wisconsin.

“It’s huge for her confidence,” Allister said. “She’s continuing to learn, and she’s doing a really nice job.”

Senior catcher Kari Dorle picked up both runs batted in during Saturday’s second game.