Groenewegen embraces responsibility

After Sara Moulton graduated, the sophomore became the team’s sole ace.

Matt Greenstein

Last year, Sara Groenewegen was the Big Ten’s Pitcher of the Year.

And she wasn’t even the ace on her own team.

With last year’s ace Sara Moulton graduated, the Gophers now rely heavily on sophomore Groenewegen to give them strong outings consistently.

“Last year we had Sara Moulton and Sara Groenewegen. We had 1A and 1B. We had two tremendous pitchers, and our [pitching] staff is going to get back to that,” head coach Jessica Allister said.

Moulton has since gone on to play professionally for the Chicago Bandits.

The increased pressure has not fazed Groenewegen.

“Coach [Piper] Ritter [tells me] all the time, ‘Pressure is make-believe.’ You only put the pressure on yourself, and if you do that, you’re going to be digging yourself a hole. I don’t look at pressure as a bad thing. I look at it as a good thing,” Groenewegen said.

During the offseason, Groenewegen keeps her body in softball mode.

The sophomore plays for Canada’s national team, and Moulton said Groenewegen’s additional pitching experience helped her prepare for the extra responsibility with the Gophers.

“She’s playing year-round at a very high level. Last year, I threw my innings and she threw her innings,” Moulton said. “She knows this year she’ll be expected to throw more, and I think she’s mentally and physically prepared to do that this year.”

Though Groenewegen’s progression throughout her time with Minnesota has been noticeable, more than just her skills set her apart.

With Moulton’s absence, Groenewegen has not only taken on pitching responsibilities but also the team’s leadership role.

“Sara is as competitive as they come. She wants to win, and I think that is her leadership piece. When it comes down to it, she wants the ball and wants to win. Our team really feeds off of her competitive fire, and I think that’s her biggest attribute as a leader,” Allister said.

Groenewegen has taken her role model responsibilities seriously, even as a sophomore.

Moulton and Groenewegen are still in contact throughout the year, and although Moulton gave Groenewegen pointers last year, the professional has taken a step back from coaching the Gophers athlete.

“She’s been doing really well. [My conversations with her have] been more emotional support rather than the technical stuff because they have a pitching coach for all that,” Moulton said.

Last season, Groenewegen and Moulton led the team on and off the field. But now with her counterpart gone, Groenewegen’s noticed her added responsibilities.

“Last year, I had a big leadership role, especially as a freshman [and] especially with Moulton being gone this year … I’ve had to step up,” Groenewegen said. “I think just working hard in practice really reflects on to the other teammates.”