Gophers ready for heated rematch with Wisconsin

Minnesota lost to the Badgers in the Big Ten title game last season.

by Jared Christensen

No. 14 Minnesota will look to continue its best season ever this weekend with a three-game tilt against Wisconsin at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

The Gophers lost 9-3 to the Badgers in last year’s Big Ten championship game. This year, junior infielder Tyler Walker said the series is about a lot more than the famed Border Battle between the two schools.

“We’re out for revenge,” she said. “It’s not about the Border Battle. It’s about the battle we had with them last spring in the title game.

“And we’re going to come out on top.”

It’s been a busy week of warm up for Minnesota as two of its players received impressive individual honors.

Gophers freshman Sara Groenewegen was named Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week following her outstanding effort against the Illini, and All-Big Ten first team pitcher Sara Moulton was drafted fifth overall in the National Pro Fastpitch College Draft.

These two distinctions add to the growing list of awards won by softball players this season, and head coach Jessica Allister said she’s never coached a team with this much talent.

“This is a special team,” she said. “This is the most depth we’ve ever had in the pitcher’s circle.

“And on any given day, anybody can come up big for us.”

Moulton — one of the most accomplished pitchers in Gophers history — emphasized that even though she was drafted, her goal is still to win a Big Ten championship this year.

“I’ll be more excited about the draft when it comes time to be,” Moulton said.

While Moulton is being forced to think about her post-Gophers playing days, Groenewegen’s career at Minnesota is just starting to blossom.

In her freshman campaign, she boasts a 7-0 record in the pitcher’s circle and has seven home runs in the batter’s box.

She is the first Gophers softball player to win Freshman of the Week honors since junior Kaitlyn Richardson won the award in April of her freshman season.

Groenewegen said she relishes the opportunity to contribute to the team so early in her career.

“I don’t think a lot of freshmen anticipate having a big role on the team right away,” she said. “It’s been fun to find my role, and the timing has been great for me.”

Even with the early success this year, Moulton said she hasn’t forgotten last year’s conference title game.

“This year, we’ve been working towards getting back to that Big Ten championship game,” she said. “And to have that taken away from us by Wisconsin last year definitely lights a fire under us.

“It’ll be a bloodbath this weekend, but we owe them three.”