Minnesota hopes to continue strong play at Wildcat Invitational

The Gophers won five-of-six games last weekend at the Spartan Classic.

by Nick Sudheimer

After a successful weekend at the Spartan Classic, Minnesota has a chance to prove it can be a legitimate contender in the Big Ten as the team travels to Tucson, Ariz., to play in the Wildcat Invitational.

The Gophers will take on five battle-tested teams from across the country throughout the weekend. One of the teams, Arizona, is ranked No. 4 in the nation.

Despite success at the Spartan Classic, the Gophers have been working to improve the weaknesses and flaws they saw throughout the tournament to prepare themselves for the five teams they will play this weekend.

âÄúWe canâÄôt really focus on one team, but we can focus on what we need to work on as a team,âÄù said sophomore Kari Dorle, who has hit the third most home runs in the Big Ten. âÄúWeâÄôve been working on hitting specific pitches, working on team defense and just working more on teamwork.âÄù

The Gophers will put those preparations to the test when they open the tournament tomorrow morning against a struggling Utah State team, which has given up an average of 13 runs per game, although three of those games have been against top-20 teams âÄî two of them against top-ranked UCLA.

The Gophers will follow with a noon rubber match against California-Riverside. The Gophers have already played the Highlanders twice this season, losing the first game but winning the second.

âÄúWe donâÄôt want to lose to them again,âÄù said Dorle. âÄúWe want to be able to say we beat them and it wasnâÄôt a fluke.âÄù

Minnesota will face its toughest test Saturday when it plays Portland State and nationally ranked Arizona.

The Gophers will start play at 2 p.m. Saturday against an experienced Portland State team. The Vikings have already played against five top-20 teams and managed to upset one of them, No. 16 BYU.

Minnesota will have a chance at an upset of its own when it plays No. 4 Arizona following the Portland State game.

âÄúPlaying ranked teams is something everybody looks forward to,âÄù Dorle said. âÄúEveryone wants to show they can compete with them.âÄù

Arizona comes into the weekend with a 14-2 record, having outscored opponents 108-40.

The Gophers will finish the Invitational with a game against lowly Idaho State, which has managed to win just two games this season.

âÄúThis tournament will be a test for us,âÄù said Dorle. âÄúIt will let us see what our strengths and weaknesses are and also get us ready for conference.âÄù