After 3-1 in Carolina Classic, Minn. off to hot start

Pitcher Sara Moulton had three complete games over the weekend and gave up just one run.

Betsy Helfand

The Gophers softball team is off to its best start since 2003 and continued that success this weekend in the Carolina Classic.

The team went 3-1 on the weekend to improve its overall record to 10-3.

Minnesota fell behind on an unearned run in the first inning  Friday to James Madison University but tied it up in the third on Alex Davis’s RBI single.

Davis drove in all three of the team’s runs in the game. In the fifth inning, Davis’s single plated third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson and catcher Kari Dorle.

Starting pitcher Sara Moulton pitched a complete game and gave up just one hit and one unearned run — both in the first inning.

Head coach Jessica Allister called that win huge because “it was the first time we had gotten down early … but we kept going and got the [win].”

Minnesota dropped its only game of the weekend on Saturday, a 1-0 loss to North Carolina, which is ranked No. 24 in the ESPN.com/USA softball polls but unranked in various other polls.

Moulton pitched another complete game but suffered the loss. She gave up five hits and one run, which came on a fielder’s choice.

The Gophers had just five hits of their own, two of which came from second baseman Erika Smyth, who went 2-for-3.

The team had opportunities to score, included a bases loaded, one-out situation in the second, but stranded seven base runners in the game.

“I think we were aggressive. We just didn’t get the big hit when we needed one,” Allister said.

Despite the loss, Allister said that she was proud of the team and that staying competitive against a quality team “tells us that we have a chance to play with anybody in the country.”

The Gophers beat James Madison 9-1 in just six innings in a later game Saturday.  After recording three strikeouts apiece earlier in the day against UNC, shortstop Tyler Walker and Richardson bounced back Saturday night.

Walker went 3-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs, while Richardson went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI. Both homered in the game.

Starting pitcher Alissa Koch recorded her second win of the season, as she held James Madison to just one run on five hits in six innings.

In the final game of the weekend, Minnesota defeated Notre Dame 9-1, behind five first-inning runs. The team capitalized on a Notre Dame error and scored three unearned runs in the sixth inning.

Minnesota got multiple hits from Walker, Bree Blanchette and Madie Eckstrom, who drove in three runs. Richardson drove in two runs and scored twice.

That was more than enough for Moulton, who pitched her third complete game of the weekend, and gave up just one run on four hits while striking out 10.  It’s the third time this season that she has recorded 10 or more strikeouts.  Moulton is now 8-2 on the year.

The Gophers will play No. 13 Georgia on Saturday as part of the Bulldog Invitational in Athens, Ga.