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Play ball! Gophers open softball season Friday

This may or may not turn out to be the best Gophers team in history. But one thing is certain. It starts the season higher than any other, No. 14, one spot higher than a year ago.

And it's led by one of the most dominante pitchers in college softball: junior Sara Groenewegen. espnW listed her sixth on its top 25 players in the country.

Groenewegen was the Big Ten player of the year last season when the Gophers finished 49-11 and lost 7-6 in eight innings  to Arizona in an NCAA regional final.

She had a 31-7 record plus two saves, a 1.67 ERA and 379 strikeouts. Oh, yes, she also hit .372 with 12 homers and 44 RBI.

Also returning are three other pitchers, including senior Nikki Anderson who was 10-2 and sophomore Kylke Stober who was 8-2. Their ERAs were nearly identical, 3.36 and 3.35.

Minnesota was an offensive juggernaut last season as well, setting program records in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, runs and homers.

Its winning percentage of .817 was also a program best. That team and the 2014 team both started the season 8-0.

That might be a tough task to duplicate when the Gophers open the season with two games on Friday in the Sporto Kickoff Classic in Las Vegas.

They face Utah Valley (18-41 last year) at 1:15 p.m. at Eller Media Stadium. The Wolverines led the nation in double plays last season. It's the first ever meeting between these two.

Then they play No. 8 Oklahoma at 3:30 p.m. The Sooners are the four-time defending Big 12 champions and are favored in a preseason coaches poll to finish first in the conference again.The Sooners return six of eight all-region players and have an ace in sophomore Paige Parker. She had a 1.65 ERA last season, nine shutouts and 28 wins.

The Gophers lost seven seniors, including two stars, first baseman Kaitlyn Richardson and shortstop Tyler Walker, whose career batting averages were .374 and .356, respectively.

But coach Jessica Allister has 15 returning players, including second baseman Danielle Parlich who hit a team-high .400 as a freshman and was first team all-Big Ten.

Other key players are third baseman Sam Macken and catcher Taylor LeMay.

Macken, a junior, hit .363 with seven homers and 35 RBI. Pretty good numbers, especially for someone who hit first or second.

LeMay, a senior, has started 113 of 116 games behind the plate the past two seasons. She had a .992 fielding percentage last season and didn't make a single error in Big Ten games. She hit .310 overall, .404 in true road games. The Gophers won 20 of those, tying for the national lead.

Another key returning player is senior outfielder Paige Palkovich. She hit .310 last season with six homers and 31 RBI.

The Gophers should be able to score some runs.

An upset, a nailbiter as Big Ten season in women's basketball opens

Enough already with nonconference games.

Big Ten Conference basketball season began Thursday on the women's side with all 14 teams playing. Four home teams won, three lost. Here are the highlights:


The Gophers fell at Rutgers 66-55. Carlie Wagner had 22 points and Rachel Banham 17 but nobody else had more than four for Minnesota. Still the score was tied at 49 before the Scarlet Knights went on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter.

Of course, those two took 45 shots combined, the other nine players for Minnesota took 21. Maybe not quite the balance you need.


Somebody in the Big Ten has to beat Brenda Frese's Terps someday, right? But not quite yet. No. 6 Maryland won 79-63 at Illinois to improve to 12-1. It was the 31st consecutive win for the Terps against a Big Ten team, going back to 2007. (Maryland has been in conference only since last season, when it went 18-0. Before that the Terps were in the ACC).

Sophomore Kristen Confrey had 17 points while 6-3 junior Brionna Jones had 16 points and 19 rebounds.

Maryland outrebounded the Illini 55-26 and had a 21-4 dominance in points in the paint.


Penn State (6-6) beat visiting and No. 14-ranked Northwestern 70-73 behind Teniya Page's 27 points and Brianna Banks' 25. PSU outscored the Wildcats 27-18 in the fourth quarter and had five players in double figures. Former Hopkins star Nia Coffey, a junior forward, led Northwestern (11-2) with 20 points and 12 rebounds -- her eighth double-double of the year, while Ashley Deary had 12 points and 10 assists.

The Gophers host Penn State on Sunday.


Junior Ashley Morrissette made a three-pointer with seven seconds left to give Purdue a 65-63 win at Michigan. But wait?  Wolverines freshman Boogie Brozoski gets fouled on a three with 0.3 seconds left -- with the score 65-62 Boilermakers -- and has a chance to tie the score but makes only one of three free throws.

She was 1 of 5 at the foul line, the Wolverines 12 of 21 as a team. Morrissette lead Purdue with 15 points; sophomore Katelynn Flaherty scores 19 for Michigan.


No. 9 Ohio State edges No. 24 Michigan State 85-80 in Columbus. Both teams are now 9-3. Kelsey Mitchell has 25 points to lead the Buckeyes. She is 13 of 13 on free throws but 0 for 10 on three-point shots. Teammate Ameryst Alston scores 23 points. Aerial Powers leads the Spartans with 23 points. ... Four Spartans foul out, leaving Suzy Merchant unhappy about the officiating.


* Wisconsin beats Indiana 73-69 at the Kohl Center as 5-10 senior guard Nicole Bauman scores 24 points, 12 in the fourth quarter, and 5-8 sophomore guard Dakota Whyte scores 17. Badgers commit only nine turnovers to Hoosiers' 16.

* Iowa beats Nebraska 74-68 in Lincoln to improve to 11-2. Huskers fall to 9-3 before big crowd of 7,329. Hawkeyes dominate 51-28 on the boards and 18-2 in bench points. Ally Disterhoft leads Iowa with 17 points, eight rebounds. Freshman phenom Jessica Shepard scores 28 points for the Huskers.


TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Gophers men's hockey at Ohio State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Minnesota Duluth

    7:07 pm

  • Boston at Wild

    1 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Minnesota Duluth

    4:07 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Ohio State

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers men's basketball at Iowa

    6:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Iowa at Gophers women's basketball

    7 pm on BTN, 88.5-FM

  • Wild at Vancouver

    9 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Wild at Calgary

    9 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's basketball at Indiana

    6 pm on 88.5-FM

  • Maryland at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Wild at Edmonton

    8 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Memphis

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Wisconsin at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm

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