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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Friends for life: Gophers softball graduates reflect on bonds made with the maroon and gold

Minnesota honored Sydney Strelow, Delanie Cox, Maddy Ehlke, Bri Enter, Morgan DeBord and Jacie Hambrick on senior day, May 5, the final game of the regular season.
Minnesota+honored+each+athlete+on+senior+day%2C+May+5%2C+the+final+game+of+the+regular+season.
Image by Gopher Athletics
Minnesota honored each athlete on senior day, May 5, the final game of the regular season.

Gopher softball graduated six athletes this season, including homegrown talent and additions through the transfer portal.

The graduates accounted for 36% of the Gophers’ offense and 60% of Minnesota’s innings pitched in 2024. Pitchers Bri Enter and Jacie Hambrick led the team in innings pitched and earned run average (ERA), with a minimum of 20 appearances.

Minnesota finished with a 28-25 overall record (13-10 in the Big Ten).

Tenured Gophers

Second baseman Sydney Strelow spent her five-year career in Minnesota. She started 225 games for the Gophers, compiling 154 hits and 21 home runs. The Kenosha, Wisconsin native said Minnesota did not recruit her until she attended Gopher softball camps.

Strelow started all but two games in her freshman season, making an immediate impact and improving statistically each year.

Strelow notched her first 50-hit season in 2024. It was the first time she finished a campaign with a batting average of over .300.

First baseman Delanie Cox joined the team with Strelow in 2020 but did not have the same initial impact.

Cox played two games in her first season at Minnesota. She said she “grew up” throughout her time with the Gophers and gained confidence with experience. In the final two years of her career, she played in 105 games, starting in 90, and became the Gophers’ everyday first baseman.

Strelow said she and Cox relied on each other throughout their time as Gophers, which fostered their friendship.

“Delanie and I have been through so much, and through everything together, we’ve been each other’s support system,” Strelow said. “We both know we have each other’s back no matter what happens on or off the field.”

On senior day, Strelow and Cox combined for six hits against Nebraska, and on the final play of the game, Strelow caught a line drive and threw it over to Cox at first for a double play to win 7-5. The pair immediately let their emotions go when they shared a tight embrace in front of a standing crowd at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.

When designated player Maddy Ehlke began her college career, she knew it would be unique given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. She said she took the first two years to learn from her teammates.

Ehlke was a prominent piece of the lineup in her final two seasons. She played a solid role in Minnesota’s trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2023, hitting 6/12 over three games in the Seattle regional.

Ehlke said senior day was important because her parents got to see how much she achieved in the past four years.

“I think it will be a full circle moment, but also one of those to be thankful for how much my family has been there and supported me,” Ehlke said. “It’s also nice for my parents to see the success I was able to have and that all their hard work paid off.”

Ehlke’s favorite memory of her time at Minnesota is the go-ahead bases-clearing triple she hit against Indiana in 2023.

Here for a good time, not a long time

Center fielder Morgan DeBord spent her fifth season of collegiate softball at Minnesota after playing her first four at Loyola Marymount University.

A five-tool player who made highlight-reel catches in center field and produced clutch home runs, DeBord got on base by any means necessary, finishing her final four seasons all above a .300 batting average.

DeBord said even before the 2024 season, she formed strong bonds with her Gopher teammates.

“When I first got here, it was before school and my lease hadn’t started,” DeBord said. “Sydney, Delanie and the other seniors they live with took me in and I lived in their apartment. I didn’t even know these people and slept on their couch for a week.”

DeBord said the relationships she built with her teammates are strong, and some are “friends for life.”

Pitcher Jacie Hambrick transferred to Minnesota after spending her first two seasons at Grand Canyon University. Hambrick said the 2024 season was different because she changed roles throughout the year.

Hambrick said she always tried to prepare for every opportunity, whether starting the game, coming out of the bullpen in relief or being called on to close.

DeBord described Gopher softball as a “family” and said players build connections beyond the diamond.

“What I’m going to miss the most is just seeing these girls, my best friends,” Hambrick said. “They’re my sisters. I spend every second of my life with them.”

Pitcher Bri Enter started her career in her home state of Florida, playing for Florida State for her first three seasons.

Heading into 2024, Enter had only started seven games. This season, she took on the ace role and started 20 games, posting a team-leading 3.16 ERA and 110.2 innings pitched.

Enter said Minnesota lived up to her expectations when she transferred from the Sunshine State.

“I just felt like I’ve seen myself grow as a player more than I thought at Florida State,” Enter said. “Seeing how much I grew in a little bit of time with Coach Ritter has been amazing to look back on.”

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