The Gophers went to the Citrus Classic in Orlando to play five softball games. They arrived ranked No. 11 in one major poll, No. 13 in another.
And the tournament started well for them on Friday. Sophomore righthander Sara Groenewegen pitched a one-hitter and struck out 14, tying her career high, as the Gophers beat a strong Mississippi State team 5-0 in the first game.
That win gave Minnesota a 14-1 record -- matching last year's start, which was the best in program history.
Then the Gophers hit a wall, or so it seems, losing three games in a row in different ways.
In their second game, the Gophers lost to James Madison 8-2. Freshman Kylie Stober started for Minnesota and got pounded. She gave up six hits, two walks and four runs, all earned in 1-1/3 innings. Junior Nikki Anderson relieved her and, in 4-2/3 innings, was also pretty hittable. She allowed 12 hits, a walked one, hit a batter, and gave up four runs, two earned.
With the win, James Madison improved to 6-4.
After two games were rained out on Saturday, the Gophers played Fordham on Sunday morning. Anderson started and it was bad. The first eight hitters got on base before Anderson was relieved without getting an out.
It was 9-0 by the time the inning ending. Final score: Fordham 10, Gophers 5. There was one positive from that game. Stober pitched six innings in relief and gave up one run, unearned.
With the win, Fordham, which had 13 hits, five for extra bases, improved to 9-7.
On Sunday, Gophers coach Jessica Allister moved her slumping leading hitter, Tyler Walker, who went 0-for-8 on Friday, to eighth in the batting order and moved Erica Meyer to the leadoff spot. It didn't help much. Meyer went 0x3, Walker, one of the team's top hitters for three seasons, was 1x4.
Alabama Birmingham beat the Gophers and Groenewegen 1-0 in the final game in Florida. Groenewegn gave up only three hits, but the Chargers scored an unearned run in the sixth on a double.
Winning pitcher Cara Gooden was only the third pitcher to shut out the Gophers since the start of the 2014 season.
Meyer and Walker in their new spots in the other were each 0x3. Danielle Parlich was 2x3 and three other players had one hit, all singles. So not much offense.
With the loss, Groenewegen is 8-2 this season, 22-5 in her career.
Next the Gophers will play in the Louisville Slugger Classic, which must have had trouble getting teams because the U will face Stanford, the host team, three times. Once every day, starting Friday. The Gophers will also have a second game on Saturday, versus Santa Clara.
The Cardinal is 12-10, and one of the losses was to Northwestern 12-7. Santa Clara is 5-14.
The Gophers will need to get their bats going, especially Walker's, and find a second reliable starter behind Groenewegen. Walker was first team All-Big Ten last season and hit 382. She's hitting .267 this season.