The Gophers are 25-2 so far this softball season and haven't played a home game yet. This weekend they will be at Nebraska for a three-game series to open Big Ten play.
Minnesota is ranked No. 8 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association ratings and No. 11 in the RPI rankings. No other conference team is close to those rankings, although Wisconsin at 21-2 also has a gaudy record. Besides the Badgers, every other Big Ten team has seven losses or more, even perennial power Michigan.
In the coaches' poll, Michigan is No. 18, Wisconsin No. 21. In the RPI rankings,Ohio State is No. 16, Michigan No. 23 and Wisconsin No. 32.
So what makes the Gophers tick. A little bit of everything.
They can hit. Their team batting average is .342 -- tops in the Big Ten and 12th among all NCAA teams. Six players are hitting .350 or higher. They lead the conference with 50 doubles and a .431 on-base percentage.
Runs scored? Walks? The Gophers are first there with 183 runs and 98 walks.
Minnesota recently finished a West Coast road trip -- nine games in nine days -- with a 7-2 mark. No. 6 Washington ended their season-opening 19-game winning streak with a 3-2 win in a white knuckler, then blew out Minnesota two days later.
But the Gophers bounced back, winning the last four games by a combined score of 38-1.
Junior first baseman Sydney Dwyer is especially mashing the ball. She is hitting .434 and, with runners in scoring position, a lofty .568. That's why she has 40 RBI, the most of any Big Ten hitter and third most among all NCAA players.
These Gophers can pitch a little, too. The team ERA of 1.67 is the lowest in the Big Ten and is 16th in the NCAA.
Sara Groenewegen, the senior righthander from White Rock, British Columbia, is 11-1 with a 0.65 ERA and 99 Ks. She is the staff ace for the fourth year in a row.
But coach Jessica Allister has used four other pitchers with good results. Tori Finucane, a senior transfer from Missouri, is 4-0 an has throw a one-hitter and a two-hitter. Freshman Carlie Brandt, of Le Sueur, Minn., primarily a reliever, is 5-0 with a 0.91 ERA.
In fielding, the Gophers are second in the Big Ten at .910, trailing Michigan at .981.
Nebraska, their first Big Ten foe, certainly seems beatable. The Cornhuskers are a pedestrian 8-17 although they are 4-0 at home and coming off a 15-11 win over visiting Omaha -- the highest scoring game in Bowlin Stadium history.
Nebraska hit three homers in the slugfest and had 18 hits, putting up crooked numbers in four innings.
The Cornhuskers are led by the legendary Rhonda Revelle, in her 25th season. She has 921 career wins and has taken 20 teams to NCAA tournaments and three to World Series. Twenty times her teams have finished in the top 15. This club doesn't look like a powerhouse, though.