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U gets biggest win of season in softball

For 34 games, the Gophers softball team had traveled all over -- six states --- to compete.

The U was 10-0 in California, 5-0 in both Arizona and Nevada, 3-0 in Illinois, 2-1 in Nebraska and only 4-4 in Florida, where they lost three games one weekend.

All that add ups to a 29-5 record. But Friday was their home opener, and the preseason conference favorite, Michigan, was the opponent. The Wolverines were 31-5, and ranked No. 4 in the country.

The Gophers would have to be at their best to win -- and they were.

Minnesota won 9-1 in six innings. Yes, the game ended an inning early by the eight-run rule.

The No. 12 Gophers (30-5, 6-1) started as well as you could. Leadoff hitter Tyler Walker, on a hot streak for the past month, hit her team-leading 10th homer in the bottom of the first to give the U a 1-0 lead. It was her 43rd career homer, tying her for second on the all-time career homer list.

(She is tied with Shannon Beeler, 1996-99. Jordanne Nygren is first with 51 from 1999-2003.)

Walker has seven of her 10 homers in the past eight games.

After Michigan (31-6, 5-2) tied the score in the top of the third -- on junior second baseman Sierra Romero's RBI single -- the Gophers got three more runs in the bottom of the inning. The first two came home on pitcher Sara Groenewegen's single.

Sam Macken hit a solo homer in the fourth to make it 5-1. And four more runs scored in the sixth, the first on a hit batter with the bases loaded, two more on Danielle Parlich's single and the fourth on an error. That was the ball game.

Groenewegen mowed down the Wolverines. The sophomore righthander only gave up four hits, and one walk while striking out 10.

She now has 200 strikeouts this season in 134 innings.

It was the first time this season Michigan lost in a shortened game by the run rule and the first time thay had as many as 10 batters strike out.

Sophomore Megan Betsa of Michigan gave up all nine runs, only four were earned. Michigan committed three errors, the Gophers none.

Betsa gave up nine hits and walked five in 5.2 innings. She struck out eight.

This is the fifth time in coach Jessica Allister's five seasons the Gophers have reached the 30-win mark. They have won 11 games shortened by the eight-run rule.

The second game of the series is at 1 p.m. Saturday. It's also on the Big Ten Network.

The Gophers are 98-85 all-time in Cowles Stadium after compiling a 9-3 home record a year ago.

Big Ten lead at stake for U softball at Nebraska

It's not who you play, it's when you play then. That's an adage in sports with a lot of merit.

And it's not necessarily good news for the Gophers softball team.

The Maroon and Gold are in Lincoln, Neb., this weekend for a three-game series against the hot Cornerhuskers.

Nebraska is only 17-12, but the Big Red has won nine of its past 10 games and all five of its Big Ten games. The Cornhuskers are the co-defending regular-season conference champions and are especially tough at home.

Minnesota won the Big Ten Conference tournament a year ago.

Game times are 5:30 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.

The Gophers (27-4, 3-0 Big Ten) are ranked No. 12 in both major national polls, ESPN/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA. They are coming off a sweep at Illinois.

They are 12-0 in true road games -- that's more road wins than any other Division I team. They are also on a program-record 13 game winning streak. The last loss was on March 1, to Alabama Birmingham.

But Nebraska has historically played the Gophers tough, holding a 19-11 lead in the all-time series. Under Jessica Allister as coach, the Gophers are 5-4 vs. the Huskers.

Nebraska leads the Big Ten with a .358 team batting average, the Gophers are next at .349 and have the hottest hitter. Senior shortstop Tyler Walker has raised her batting average this month from .257 to .343, and she has hit five homers in her last four games.

The Gophers are averaging 7.5 runs per game, the Cornhuskers 7.7 and in their past five games have outscored the opposition 17-1 in the first inning.

Minnesota has one of the top pitchers in the nation in sophomore righty Sara Groenewegen. She is second in the nation in strikeouts with 183 in 118 innings. Last season she led the nation with 11.6 strikeouts per seven innings. Now she's at 11 per seven innings.

Local Schedule

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  • Oakland at Twins

    12:10pm on 96.3-FM

  • Chicago at Wild

    8:30pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers baseball at Iowa


  • Twins at Cleveland

    6:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Gophers baseball at Iowa


  • Twins at Cleveland

    3:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Atlanta at Minnesota United FC


  • Twins at Cleveland

    12:10pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Gophers baseball at Iowa


  • Twins at Detroit

    6:08pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Twins at Detroit

    6:08pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

Today's Scoreboard

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