Moulton, Gophers continue success

Freshman pitcher Sara Moulton already has more wins than Minnesota had all last season. She is 17-8; the Gophers finished 16-37 in 2010.

The Gophers finished up tournament play this weekend, coming out of the University of Missouri tournament 2-1 behind another stellar string of performances by pitcher Sara Moulton.

Minnesota started the weekend with a 3-0 win over North Dakota State, beating the Bison for the second time in five days. Moulton, whoâÄôs having an incredible freshman year, threw both games and did not yield a run in either. She already has 17 wins, two more than last yearâÄôs top Gopher pitcher.

Moulton tossed a one-hitter against North Dakota State on Friday, striking out nine while only walking two. It was her 16th win of the year, passing last yearâÄôs wins leader Lacey Middlebrooks, who went 15-14. Moulton has already positioned herself as one of the Big TenâÄôs top pitchers, and is a big reason the Gophers are heading into conference play this week with a. 18-13 record after finishing last year 16-37.

On the offensive side of the ball, senior Melisa Barnes again led the charge for Minnesota, going 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs.

The GophersâÄô game on Saturday game against Western Michigan was canceled, but they faced the Broncos Sunday, winning behind MoultonâÄôs 15 strikeouts. It was her 17th win of the year and second consecutive shutout.

âÄúSheâÄôs made the transition from high school to college very well,âÄù Barnes said of MoultonâÄôs breakout performance this year.

Minnesota couldnâÄôt pull off the weekend sweep, though, dropping its final game to No. 13 Missouri, 2-0.

The Gophers head into Big Ten play with two of the top players in the conference in Barnes and Moulton. The duo are among the Big Ten leaders in many of the major pitching and hitting categories, making them early candidates for All-Big Ten honors.

Even with this encouraging success, individual honors havenâÄôt been the focus of this team. Head coach Jessica Allister has instilled a strict team-oriented mindset that players on the team, including Barnes, Moulton and power-hitting sophomore third baseman Alex Davis, have all bought into, and itâÄôs creating quick returns. Allister, a former All-American herself, tries to keep the teamâÄôs focus on how they play, win or lose.

âÄúWe try not to worry about the outcome,âÄù she said.

Regardless of what the team pays attention to, the approach has turned a team that finished in last place in the Big Ten last season into a team that has a good chance to end up in the top half of the conference this year.