Moulton dominates en route to four victories

Sara Moulton allowed only three hits in 17 innings of work.

Jared Christensen

No. 20 Minnesota went 4-0 at the Spartan Classic in Greensboro, N.C., over the weekend and improved its record to 12-1 — the best 13-game start in program history.

Gophers senior pitcher Sara Moulton tossed her fifth career no-hitter Saturday, and freshman Sara Groenewegen added a dominant performance in the pitcher’s circle and the batter’s box.

Moulton’s no-hitter against the Hampton Tigers was one of her three complete-game shutouts over the weekend. She gave up just three hits in 17 innings pitched.

Moulton downplayed the no-hitter and said she didn’t even realize it was happening until after the game.

“In order for that to happen, there has to be great defense behind me,” Moulton said. “It was just a great team win.”

Moulton now has more than 1,000 strikeouts in her career, and her season’s ERA sits at 0.92.

Groenewegen, however, was not to be outdone. She had a strong performance of her own Saturday, leading the Gophers to a win over Army.

Groenewegen, a freshman from Canada, struck out five batters in three innings and hit a home run in the first inning to help her own cause.

“I try and have as much fun as I can,” she said. “When we’re relaxed, that’s when good things happen.”

Gophers junior infielder Tyler Walker said the team loves watching the freshman pitcher hit.

“We get pumped for her,” Walker said. “What kind of pitcher do you see blasting bombs over the fence? It’s extremely exciting.”

Minnesota head coach Jessica Allister said Groenewegen’s presence at the plate, along with the bat of outfielder Bree Blanchette, has taken pressure off All-American Kaitlyn Richardson, whom pitchers regularly try to avoid.

“[Groenewegen] and Blanchette do a tremendous job protecting Richardson in the lineup,” she said. “It makes it very difficult to put her on base.”

Groenewegen went 5-for-9 on the weekend with two home runs and five runs batted in. Blanchette went 4-for-9 with three RBIs and a home run.

Gophers infielder Tyler Walker added to the offense, collecting six hits and driving in six runs from the leadoff position. She also hit her first home run of the
season.

Allister said Walker’s ability to move around on base paths is essential for the team’s offensive production.

“There was one situation where [Walker] was hit by a pitch, stole second, was bunted to third and scored on a grounder,” she said. “When you have somebody that can manufacture runs like that, it’s huge.”

The Gophers will travel to Tempe, Ariz., next weekend for the Louisville Slugger Classic.

Walker emphasized the importance of staying focused despite the hot start.

“We need to compete like it’s a World Series Championship game every time,” she said. “No matter who is on the other side, we have to play like it’s the best team in the country.”