The Gophers softball team, which entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 team in the USA Today/NFCA poll last spring, is ranked No. 16 in its preseason rankings and No. 18 in the ESPN/USA softball poll.
Minnesota is coming off a 56-5 season — the program’s best ever. The Gophers won the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles and had winning streaks of 19 and 26 games. Seven of eight position player return, including catcher Kendyl Lindaman, the conference’s player of the year, as does No. 2 pitcher Amber Fiser, who was 14-0 with a 1.68 ERA.
The Gophers will play eight games against teams in the USA Today/NFCA’s top 25, including No. 5 UCLA, No. 7 Arizona and No. 9 Florida State (twice).
• Lindaman was named to Fastpitch News’ preseason All-America team.
Kill to work for Salukis
Former Gophers football coach Jerry Kill, who led Southern Illinois in Carbondale to five consecutive NCAA playoff appearances, will return to the Salukis as an ambassador for the school. He also will assist with fundraising for athletics.
• Elk River two-way lineman Ronald Audette announced on Twitter that he has committed to play football at Oregon State. The 6-3, 305-pound senior had appeared headed to North Dakota State last fall but reopening his recruiting process amid of flurry of late interest from Division I schools.
• Rick Soskin, 62, of Minnetonka, will be one of 23 individuals recognized for more than 25 years of volunteer work in golf on Feb. 3 at the USGA annual meeting in Miami Beach, Fla. He is past president of the Minnesota Golf Association.
• The No. 11 Gophers women’s indoor track and field team has the best group of four among Division I schools in four events: the 5,000 meters, shot put, weight throw and pentathlon.
• Tierney Wolfgram, a freshman at Math and Science Academy in Woodbury, was named Gatorade’s girls cross-country runner of the year for 2017 in Minnesota. She won her second Class 1A state title last fall.