Minnesota opens with five victories

The team outscored its opponents 50-12 in the tournament.

Minnesota pitcher Sara Groenewegen pitches against Illinois on Saturday, March 29, at St. Thomas University.

Stephen Offerman

Minnesota pitcher Sara Groenewegen pitches against Illinois on Saturday, March 29, at St. Thomas University.

Matt Greenstein

Last year’s Big Ten Freshman and Pitcher of the Year didn’t miss a beat in the season-opening series of her sophomore season.

Gophers ace Sara Groenewegen surrendered just two runs in 16 innings pitched, recording three victories in Minnesota’s five-victory weekend.

The Gophers outscored opponents 50-12.

 Junior Nikki Anderson and freshman Kylie Stober each picked up a victory, too. 

“It’s an awesome feeling. Especially [being] the first weekend. I have a lot of trust in our other pitchers,” Groenewegen said.

Groenewegen began the weekend shutting out Washington, a top-15 ranked team, and allowing only four hits in a five-inning victory.

Head coach Jessica Allister said the shutout set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

“We’re never going to argue with a shutout. [Groenewegen is] fun to watch and fun to play behind. Most of all, [the Gophers] feed off of her energy,” Allister said.

Like any pitcher, Groenewegen needs a reliable defense behind her.

The Gophers finished the weekend with four errors, and Allister said the defense was a large part of the team’s ability to win.

“We talk about the three phases of softball: hitting, pitching and defense. On any given day, you’d better have two of the three to have a shot,” Allister said.

The Gophers hit well all weekend. Freshman Danielle Parlich went 7-for-12 over the weekend, leading the team with eight runs driven in.

Seniors Kaitlyn Richardson and Hannah Granger each had nine hits apiece.

In the third game, Stober started, but the defense struggled early.

In the first inning, she gave up only one earned run, but two errors helped UC Davis score four runs.

Down 4-1, with no outs recorded, Anderson replaced Stober.

“I think [I went] in knowing I needed to help my team out and get some outs,” Anderson said.

Anderson closed out the inning and was given some offensive help as the Gophers took a 5-4 lead in the top of the second inning.

“It was huge. It just shows how resilient this team is. We never let a team get ahead of us,” Anderson said.

Anderson quickly settled into a groove, allowing only two runs during her six-inning performance.

During Minnesota’s 4-2 victory against its fourth opponent, Louisville, Groenewegen asserted her dominance again.

The sophomore recorded nine strikeouts and allowed only four hits during the game.

Groenewegen started the Gophers fifth game and pitched four innings during Minnesota’s 14-3 victory against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Stober relieved Groenewegen but struggled once again. She let in three runs at the bottom of the fifth inning.

But Groenewegen and the offense were more than enough to secure a victory.

 “It’s hard to go three days in a row. Sara did a tremendous job for us,” Allister said.