Houlihan’s bat shows off rookie’s offensive potential

The freshman ranks second on the team in home runs this season with seven.

Freshman Maddie Houlihan throws her bat after a base hit against Wisconsin on April 12 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Sam Harper, Daily File Photo

Freshman Maddie Houlihan throws her bat after a base hit against Wisconsin on April 12 at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

Emily Polglaze

Maddie Houlihan is no stranger to making an impact. 
 
 
The freshman was a high school standout and is already thriving with the Gophers through 39 games, both at the plate and on the field. 
 
 
“Maddie Houlihan is doing very well,” head coach Jessica Allister said. “She’s adapting as she goes, and she’s definitely getting better every weekend.”
 
 
Houlihan’s success dates back to her time at Benilde-St. Margaret’s high school, where she was an all-state selection three times. 
 
 
She holds nearly every hitting record for the Red Knights, including most hits, home runs and RBIs in a season and career. 
 
 
Houlihan said she always knew she wanted to play for the University of Minnesota, and though she kept her options open, she signed her National Letter of Intent in November 2014.
 
 
She’s the only freshman who has started every game this season and one of seven players on the team to do so. She’s kept forcing her way into the lineup as a rookie because her bat has translated well to college.
 
 
She has the second-best slugging percentage on the team at .556 and the second-most home runs with seven. 
 
 
The Plymouth, Minn., native’s offensive ability was especially on display in the team’s series against Illinois last weekend. Houlihan hit two doubles and a grand slam over three games to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
 
 
She said she’s adjusted to the speed of the game in college quickly, but the difference in pitching has been more difficult to learn.
 
 
“It was a tough adjustment to catch up to in the fall,” Houlihan said. “The biggest aspect is knowing that you’re going to get great pitching every time. I have to expect that every pitcher is going to be really good but also have the mindset that I can be better than them.”
 
 
In the field, she’s filled in at first base, stepping in for two-time All-American Kaitlyn Richardson.
 
 
Houlihan said she watched Richardson in the stands for the past four years, and now the Gophers alumna can give her advice in the dugout as an undergraduate assistant.
 
 
“I learned a lot from her. She had an amazing presence on the field,” Houlihan said. “I’m trying to find my role like that and trying to be a positive influence. We have a couple new members to the infield, but I think we’re taking steps in the right direction.” 
 
 
Though Houlihan’s career with the Gophers has only just begun, she’s already starting to see the type of role she wants to have with the team. 
 
 
“I think that one of the biggest parts of being successful at this level is trust,” Houlihan said. “I hope that I can demonstrate that in myself and in my teammates, and once everyone buys into trusting each other, this team can really go places.”