Moulton and the Gophers content with being home

Minnesota spent the first nine weeks of the season on the road.

Minnesota pitcher Sara Moulton winds up to throw a pitch against Indiana on Saturday, May 4, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Daily File Photo; Jaak Jensen

Minnesota pitcher Sara Moulton winds up to throw a pitch against Indiana on Saturday, May 4, 2013, at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Jared Christensen

No. 15 Minnesota will return to the Twin Cities this weekend, taking on Illinois in its first home series of the season.

The Gophers opened Big Ten play last week with two wins over No. 18 Nebraska, extending their winning streak to eight games. They lost in the third game of the series to snap that winning streak.

Still, Minnesota improved to 24-4 on the season and has won seven of its last eight games.

Gophers first-team All-Big Ten infielder Kaitlyn Richardson said finally playing at home gives the team an chance to re-
energize amid a long season.

“I think the middle of the season gets tedious,” she said. “We’re traveling all the time … but playing at home is refreshing. It’s really exciting.”

Though the prospect of playing on campus is exciting, there are still doubts about whether the field will be in playable condition Friday.

Minnesota’s first outdoor practice of the year was relocated to the University of St. Thomas, because the field at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium is still frozen.

Gophers senior pitcher Sara Moulton said though the games might be moved over the weekend, she’s still excited that the team doesn’t have to travel for the first time this season.

“We’re excited to finally have a home series,” she said. “It’s been a long nine weeks of traveling. And playing in front of a home crowd is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Moulton may be antsy to win at home, but the team has found ample success on the road this year — its 24-4 record is the best 28-game start in program history.

For Moulton, this weekend marks the beginning of the final stretch of her career at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium, and she said that adds a special meaning to the series.

“It’s the beginning of the end,” she said, “and that means we have to take advantage of every moment that we’re given the opportunity to play here.”

While the weekend has special meaning to Moulton, it has a different one for sophomore transfer Taylor LeMay. When she steps on the field for the first time, she’ll fulfill a lifelong dream.

“This is the place I’ve wanted to play my whole life,” she said. “So finally being able to play on this field is a wonderful opportunity, and I’m blessed to have it.”

LeMay emphasized that every conference game has a special meaning, regardless of where it’s played.

“I think any time you play a Big Ten school, it’s a big game,” she said. “I know every pitch, every at-bat, every inning means a lot to all of us.

“We really have to take advantage of this weekend and put up a couple wins.”