Gophers roll into Big Ten tourney

Minnesota is the No. 3 seed in the tournament and will face the winner of Illinois and Penn State.

Minnesota infielder Tyler Walker attempts to steal a base against Wisconsin on Sunday, April 7, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Jaak Jensen, Daily File Photo

Minnesota infielder Tyler Walker attempts to steal a base against Wisconsin on Sunday, April 7, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Drew Claussen

During Tuesday’s practice at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium, the scoreboard still displayed the result from Minnesota’s 5-4 walk-off win over Indiana last Sunday.

While the scoreboard symbolizes the end of one season for the Gophers softball team, it also symbolizes the beginning of another.

Minnesota will travel to the Big Ten tournament for the first time since 2008 this weekend. The conference has not held a tournament in that time.

That also means it will be the first time head coach Jessica Allister has led Minnesota into the tournament.

“It’s been a while since we finished this high in the conference,” Allister said. “And it’s a testament to what the girls have done this year.”

Minnesota had a 33-16 overall record and 14-6 conference record during the regular season, which is the best in recent history.

The Gophers will play the winner of the first-round game between Illinois and Penn State in Lincoln, Neb., on Friday.

The Gophers swept Illinois earlier this season and did not play Penn State.

No matter the opponent, Minnesota is not satisfied with its accomplishments so far.

“I don’t think any of us are going to be satisfied whatsoever,” sophomore shortstop Tyler Walker said. “We are a group of girls that like to exceed everyone’s expectations.”

The Gophers have handled adversity well all season. They’ve had multiple games canceled and home games moved to opposing teams’ venues because of lingering winter weather in Minnesota.

“We like being visitors. We like to score first,” Walker said. “If we’re playing defense first, we like to shut them down one, two, three so we can still score first.”

Trio of Gophers honored

Three Gophers players were named to the All-Big Ten First Team on Tuesday.

Pitcher Sara Moulton, third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson and Walker received the honors.

It was the third straight year that Moulton received Big Ten honors and the second year for Walker. It was Richardson’s first such honor.

The Gophers did not have a player named to the Big Ten All-Defensive team despite leading the conference in fielding percentage this season.