Minnesota kicks off home schedule with Nebraska

The Gophers have been on the road since the season began Feb. 11.

Betsy Helfand

In a state with weather like Minnesota’s, it’s no surprise that the Gophers softball team’s home games are not played in the winter.

The softball season started on Feb. 11, and after 28 games on the road, Minnesota will finally play its first home series this weekend at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

“[I’m] so excited. [I] can’t wait. … I don’t know that we had a weekend this nice all of last season,” head coach Jessica Allister said. “It’ll be great to be outside and get on the field.”

The Gophers (19-9, 1-2 Big Ten) dropped their first two Big Ten games March 24 against Illinois but came back the next day and won 14-4.

They are hoping to carry that momentum in to this weekend’s series against Nebraska.

“Obviously Saturday wasn’t exactly how we wanted it to go, but I think that it definitely lit a fire inside of us,” pitcher Alissa Koch said.

Four freshmen had multi-hit games in the 14-4 win, including leftfielder Erica Meyer and second baseman Erika Smyth, who combined to drive in eight  runs.

Meyer hit two home runs in the team’s eight-run seventh inning, and Smyth followed up Meyer’s first home run with one of her own.

“We had [Meyer] and [Smyth] going yard, and they’re going to have their confidence up,” shortstop Tyler Walker said. “Some of us are going to be out to crush the ball this weekend, and I think that if we stay positive and feed off last game, we’re unstoppable this weekend.”

The Gophers will need that kind of confidence against Nebraska.

The Huskers (20-12, 3-0 Big Ten) have upset then-No. 8 Arizona and then-No. 11 Missouri so far this season.

They’ve won their last nine games, and entering the week they were hitting .311 as a team, good for second best in the Big Ten.

“Nebraska’s a very, very good team. They hit the ball extremely well, they’ve got great pitching. They’re a solid all-around team,” Allister said.

Huskers twins Tatum and Taylor Edwards  are among the leaders in the Big Ten in RBIs with 29 each.

The Gophers have used two of their three pitchers at starter this year and will likely do the same this weekend.

Ace Sara Moulton  currently sports a 0.76 ERA in 129.1 innings.

Koch is another option to start. Through 40.2 innings, she currently has a 3.10 ERA.

She started two of the team’s three games against Illinois and picked up a win and a no-decision.

“We’re fortunate to have a staff where we can give opponents different looks,” Allister said.

Koch, a senior, said that she was excited to face Nebraska, a team she’s never faced before because this is the Huskers’ first softball season in the Big Ten.

“It should be a good [weekend]. They’re a great team,” she said.