Minnesota wins in Big Ten opener

The Gophers took two of three games against Nebraska over the weekend.

Jared Christensen

The Gophers’ softball team opened Big Ten play in Lincoln, Neb., over the weekend, defeating No. 15 Nebraska in two of three games.

With the pair of wins, No. 19 Minnesota improved its record to 24-4 and continued what has been one of the best seasons in program history.

Gophers junior infielder Tyler Walker used her hot bat to carry the torch offensively for her team. She went 8-for-10 with seven runs batted in during the three-game series.

Minnesota senior pitcher Sara Moulton picked up the win in Friday night’s game after giving up just one earned run in 5.2 innings pitched.

Walker said the key to breaking out this weekend was patience in the batter’s box.

“This week was all about waiting for our pitch and swinging at strikes,” she said. “That’s what went right for me this weekend — getting good pitches and putting a good swing on them.”

In the first game Sunday, the Gophers had already posted three runs in the seventh inning before freshman Sara Groenewegen came to the plate with the bases loaded.

Groenewegen blasted a grand slam, driving four runs across the plate and a railroad tie into Nebraska’s coffin. She also picked up the win in the game, improving her record to 6-0.

Groenewegen said she was happy to get that big home run to help her out of a small slump.

“I’ve been struggling a little lately, so it was nice to get a big hit like that,” she said.

Minnesota couldn’t keep the momentum rolling into the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader. It managed just two runs on nine hits and committed four errors. And after giving up three runs in four innings, Moulton was handed her third loss of the year.

Moulton said the loss gives the team plenty of things to improve moving forward.

“It’s the little things,” she said. “We got runners on base but we have to move them around. … We have to execute our bunts and all of our pitches.”

Gophers head coach Jessica Allister said she knew this series was important for her team’s confidence. She said she was satisfied with winning two games in the series.

“They are a great team every year,” she said, “and we knew we had to come out ready to play for a win.”

Minnesota will play its first home game of the season next weekend.  Moulton said she’s excited to get back on the home field for the first time this season and work toward a Big Ten title.

“We are just very excited for our first home series this weekend,” she said. “And now we are going to win a Big Ten championship.”