Underclassmen step into infield roles

Maddie Houlihan and Sydney Dwyer have started every game in the infield.

Sam Macken prepares to bat at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on April. 26.

Image by Alex Tuthill-Preus, Daily File Photo

Sam Macken prepares to bat at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on April. 26.

by Emily Polglaze

The Gophers graduated seven seniors last year and lost some of their best infield talent in recent years.
The departures left holes at first base and shortstop, but freshman Maddie Houlihan and sophomore Sydney Dwyer have filled the voids in the field.
“They’re doing a good job,” head coach Jessica Allister said. “[Houlihan] is getting a little better at first base every time she plays, learning on the fly. And it’s the same thing with [Dwyer] and shortstop. She’s definitely getting more comfortable on the field.”
Houlihan has already locked down first base, starting all 31 games so far in her first college season.
Kaitlyn Richardson, last year’s first baseman who is now on the coaching staff as a graduate assistant, has been mentoring Houlihan.
Richardson started all 60 games for Minnesota last season at first base and was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection.
“Having her perspective is an advantage for me because I, and this infield, can learn from her to get to an elite level,” Houlihan said.
The Gophers had to replace another All-Big Ten infielder this year, Tyler Walker at shortstop.
Dwyer, who served a utility role as a freshman, has started all 31 games at the position thus far and is still growing in the field.
Allister said the team’s defense has work to do, but the fielders offered a glimpse of their potential last week.
The Gophers held Purdue to just one run and six hits in their first Big Ten series of the season, in part thanks to the defense.
Dwyer said the infielders are still working to improve on their communication.
Dwyer and Houlihan are new additions, but Minnesota returned sophomore Danielle Parlich at second base and junior Sam Macken at third base.
“It takes some adjustment at first, making sure we’re all on the same page,” Dwyer said. “But we’re learning and each game we get a little bit better. We just have to have some confidence in ourselves, get gritty on tough plays and be there for each other.”