Minnesota begins 2014 season

The Gophers won 36 games last year and are ready for the new season.

Jared Christensen

Coming off its third 30-win season in as many years, the Gophers softball team will aim to continue its success this weekend at the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, La.

The Gophers roster that won 36 games last year lost just two seniors to graduation.

Minnesota junior infielder Tyler Walker said she’s excited to build on last year’s success.

“Last year, we got a taste of what the postseason is like,” she said. “And this year, we want the whole thing.”

She said that’s evident by intensity in practice so far this season.

“After talking with a few teammates, we’ve all noticed the same thing,” she said. “We’re working hard, and the intensity is up.”

Gophers returning infielder Kaitlyn Richardson said the team is excited to start the season and has lofty aspirations this year.

“For us, the ultimate goal is Big Ten champs,” she said.

Richardson’s success last year earned her first-team All-Big Ten honors. She has continued that success already this season and was named to the Top 50 Watch List for the 13th National Collegiate Player of the Year Award.

Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister said she’s been impressed so far with the team’s practices, but she also said it’s important to separate this year from last.

“It’s important to remember this is a new year,” she said. “But [the team] came into preseason workouts in very good physical shape, and when that’s the case, it’s easy to focus in on the things we need to work on.”

While Richardson and Walker led the team in batting average last year, the team also returns the pitcher who threw the most innings last season in starter Sara Moulton. Moulton was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last year after leading the conference with a 1.57 earned run average.

This weekend, the season kicks off with a game against Murray State, followed immediately by the first real test of the season against No. 19 Louisiana State.

The experienced team, however, is ready for the challenge.

“We have something really special this year,” Richardson said. “And we’re excited to do something big.”