Minnesota prepares for matchup with top-five team

Minnesota infielder Kaitlyn Richardson throws her bat after a base hit against Wisconsin on April 7, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Daily File Photo; Jaak Jensen

Minnesota infielder Kaitlyn Richardson throws her bat after a base hit against Wisconsin on April 7, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Matt Greenstein

During last season’s Big Ten championship game, Minnesota sent top-seeded Michigan home with a walk-off single to solidify a 3-2 victory.
 
This weekend, the No. 4 Wolverines will attempt to avenge the loss as they take on the 12th-ranked Gophers. But Michigan could have problems playing the Gophers at home unless it can tame Minnesota’s bats. 
 
The Gophers had a span of games in late March where they scored eight or more runs in five out of six games. Sophomore Sara Groenewegen was a big reason for this scoring outburst.
 
Since the Big Ten season started, Minnesota has scored 49 runs in only six games, and Groenewegen has driven eight of those runs in.
 
“Something about hitting is when you don’t think, you do well. When I think too much, I get way too caught up in my head, so [I need to go] in and [have] a ‘chill-at-bat’ as we call it. I think that we’ll use that to our advantage this weekend,” Groenewegen said.
 
The sophomore has not only given Minnesota a consistent bat in the lineup, but she has also been a constant in the circle.
 
Head coach Jessica Allister said Groenewegen will start in Friday’s game, but she hasn’t yet determined pitchers for the other games of the series.
 
Though the pitching rotation for the series isn’t set, Minnesota is poised to put up a competitive lineup.
 
“We’re good enough players and hitters and pitchers and catchers, whatever the case may be, to win these games. So I think that we’re really working hard to get ready for this series,” senior Kaitlyn Richardson said.
 
The weekend series won’t be the first time Minnesota has faced a ranked opponent this season. And though some of the Gophers’ top contributors are underclassmen, their experience against ranked opponents should help them this weekend.
 
“We faced some pretty good teams in the preseason, so I think the underclassmen are very ready for this. I think that they’re playing for a reason, and they’re here for a reason,” Richardson said.
 
Minnesota and Michigan currently sit tied for second in the Big Ten standings.
 
And with the tight standings, Minnesota understands the importance of the weekend series.
“It’s going to be a test. It’s going to be hard. They’re a top-ranked team, but this conference is hard. It’s a good test, but we’re ready,” Groenewegen said.
 
The Gophers threw the knockout blow to Michigan’s championship hopes last season, and they’re going to do anything to come out on top again this year.
 
“I don’t think that even matters anymore,” Richardson said. “We’re ready to win the rest of the games for the Big Ten season, so yeah, these next three games are going to be tough, but I think we’re ready for it. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get a ‘W’, [whether] that looks pretty or not.”