Plagued by quiet bats and defensive blunders Sunday, the No. 14 Minnesota softball team rebounded in style Tuesday, sweeping rival Iowa in a doubleheader.
The Gophers won the first game 2-0, following another stellar pitching performance by senior Sara Moulton. They looked even better in the second game — a 7-0 skunk on the arm of freshman Sara Groenewegen.
Those small miscues that hurt the team Sunday were nothing but distant memories by the time the doubleheader finished.
And the Gophers’ offense that combined for just four runs in two games Sunday almost doubled that score in the second game Tuesday night.
Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister said the explosive bats were the key to Tuesday’s sweep.
“We know hitting can be a streaky thing,” she said, “and for a while it felt like we were in a slump. We busted out of that tonight.”
That slump-buster came in the top of the sixth inning of Tuesday’s second game, when the Gophers exploded for six runs.
Still, the offense wasn’t the only story of the afternoon for Minnesota, whose pitchers continued to dominate opponents.
In the first game, Moulton came out firing and struck out six Hawkeyes en route to her 19th win of the season.
Groenewegen wasn’t to be outdone, surrendering just three hits in her 12-strikeout performance. The Canadian freshman has now given up just five hits in her last 14 innings pitched. Together, the dynamic duo hasn’t given up an earned run in its last six games.
Groenewegen said the success she’s having in the pitcher’s circle is the result of Moulton’s dominance.
“[Moulton] pitches a lot of down balls, and I’m throwing stuff that comes up more,” she said. “That makes it harder for teams to adjust from game to game and makes my job easier.”
Groenewegen was coming off a two-hit, nine-strikeout performance against Wisconsin on Sunday, a game that earned her a second consecutive Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honor as well as her first Big Ten Pitcher of the Week award.
While Groenewegen said Moulton makes her job easier, junior infielder Kaitlyn Richardson said the dominant pitching makes her life as a hitter much easier, too.
“When you know your pitchers are going to shut down the opposing team,” she said, “it takes a lot of pressure off of the bats and lets you relax and be free at the plate.”
And if Tuesday’s six-run sixth inning is any indication, relaxed hitting is strong hitting for the Gophers, who earned their 30th ‘W’ of the season with the two victories.
This weekend, the team will return home for a three-game series against Northwestern.
“Northwestern is a heck of a team,” she said. “We’re going to need to be prepared and come out ready to play if we hope to beat them three times.”