Softball to play four games in two days

Minnesota’s softball team will get a few games in before the temperatures dip below zero (hopefully) today and tomorrow at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

The Gophers will take on Wisconsin-Superior in a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m. today and Concordia in another doubleheader at 4 p.m. Friday.

Returning to the team is catcher Megan Higginbotham, who was named to the All-Mideast Region team last season.

The Gophers have three of their four starting pitchers back.

But the games will be Minnesota’s first in years without either pitcher Piper Marten or four-year starter at first base, Hailee Nanchy.

Marten became Minnesota’s all-time leader in career strikeouts last year, and she now holds the record at 1.122.

That figure ranks third in Big Ten history and 14th in Division I history.

The Gophers barely missed their third-consecutive trip to the national tournament last season.

They begin their 2005 season Feb. 9 at the Metrodome against Concordia-St. Paul. The Metrodome Classic – which includes Wisconsin-Green Bay, Western Illinois, Tulsa, Northern Iowa and Drake – begins Feb. 10 and runs through Feb. 13.

Men’s puck ranked 5th

A preseason WCHA coaches’ poll has Minnesota’s men’s hockey team projected at fifth out of 10 teams in the conference.

The top five are as follows: Minnesota-Duluth (first), North Dakota (second), Wisconsin (third), Colorado College (fourth) and the Gophers.

Sixteen letter winners return from last year’s team, which finished fourth in the WCHA at 15-12-1.

Defensemen Jake Taylor and Keith Ballard, and forward Thomas Vanek all left the team this offseason with eligibility remaining.