The Big Ten softball season opens Friday with all 14 teams playing.
The Gophers are at Illinois (8-16) after an impressive win Wednesday night in Berkeley. Minnesota, ranked No. 15 by USA Today/NFCA, beat No. 12 California 8-1 behind two of the team's strength, its ace pitcher and the longball.
Sophomore Sara Groenewegen threw a four-hitter and struck out 12. And the Gophers hits four homers, two came off the bat of leadoff hitter Tyler Walker, whose recent slump appears over. Hannah Granger and Paige Palkovich hit solo shots.
The Gophers have won 10 games in a row -- their longest win streak since 2008 -- are 6-0 vs. Pac-12 teams, 3-0 vs. Top 25 teams and 9-0 in true road games.
The Gophers' .351 average (stats are going into Wednesday's games, except for homers) is tops among Big Ten teams. Although No. 4-ranked Michigan is a close third at .348 and the Wolverines have an edge over the Gophers in some other statistical categories.
Granger is second in the conference with a .474 average, Katilyn Richardson is eighth at .437 and Erica Meyer (.411) and Danielle Parlich (.407) are hitting above .400, too.
Richardson is third in the Big Ten in RBI with 31, Meyer is first in doubles with 11 and Parlich first in triple with three.
In homers, the Gophers have hit 42 in 28 games, only Michigan has hit more, 52.
Michigan is also first in pitching with a 1.62 ERA, the Gophers are third at 2.18, and the Wolverines are first in fielding at .974, the Gophers are tied for third at .963.
Nationally in batting average, Minnesota ranks 12th (.351) and Nebraska is 16th (.348). Michigan checks in at No. 9 with 1.64 ERA. The Wolverines rank 16th in scoring (7.5 runs per game), while Minnesota is 17th (7.3)
After playing at Illinois this weekend, the Gophers are at Nebraska (12-12) the next weekend and then open their home season with a big series against Michigan April 3-5.
The Wolverines play at Ohio State and host Iowa before facing the Gophers.