#13 Minnesota Softball 2016 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Overall Rank: #13
Conference Rank: #2 Big Ten
Minnesota Logo
The 2015 season for Minnesota was an outstanding one despite falling short to Arizona in the decisive winner take all game of the Tucson Regional. The Golden Gophers matched their program record for wins in a season with 49 and sent their senior class out with a .714 overall winning percentage during their careers. With the standard of excellence having been raised throughout the Minnesota program by head coach Jessica Allister, it is clear that the Golden Gophers are going to be in the national college softball conversation as a contender for a long time to come.
2015: 49-11, 20-3
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jessica Allister
Field Players:
This Minnesota squad will come at you from every angle imaginable offensively and have enough of a returning core that they should be pretty explosive once again. Sophomore infielder Danielle Parlich had a bit of a historic freshman season in 2015, hitting .400 to lead the Golden Gophers in batting average. Parlich also seemed to elevate her play as the competition got tougher as her batting average with two outs was .420. Junior infielder Sam Macken set the tone for the rest of the batting order and she usually hit either first or second and took a big step forward statistically by hitting seven homeruns while driving in 35 and stealing 14 bases in 14 attempts.
Junior Sara Groenewegen has the chance for an absolutely special season in the circle. She has that innate ability to truly overpower teams on a regular basis. Groenewegen won 31 games in 2015 and displayed great control as she only walked 78 batters while striking out 379 in 234.1 innings of work last season. Groenewgen also has the ability to help herself out offensively. She hit 12 homeruns and that combined with her effectiveness in the circle put her in a position to be a contender for National Player of the Year.
Who to Watch:
Senior pitcher Nikki Anderson has experience and the ability to get the job done in the circle when Groenewgen needs to play in the field. That is an invaluable asset for Minnesota. Anderson won ten games in 2015 and was very effective for the most part in every appearance by going after hitters and throwing strikes. Sophomore pitcher Kylie Stober will give Coach Allister another nice extra option to go to in the circle especially during the early part of the season when the Golden Gophers will play several games a day in preseason tournaments.
Final Projection:
Minnesota is going to be heavily tested in the first couple weeks of the season as they will battle Oklahoma and Washington out in Las Vegas at the Sportco Kickoff Classic. Virginia Tech and Florida State will be on the schedule as well down in Tallahassee as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Georgia and North Dakota State will also round out the non-conference portion of the schedule. As far as the Big Ten slate sets up for the Golden Gophers, they do not have to play Michigan in the regular season. That should give Minnesota a chance to make a run at the regular season title. If the Golden Gophers can stay healthy and develop quickly as an offensive attack, then they should be in the top 15 or so all season long and positioned to make a long run in the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Danielle Parlich, IF, 195
Hits: Danielle Parlich, IF, 78
Home Runs: Sara Groenewegen, P/UTIL, 12
RBIs: Sara Groenewegen, P/UTIL, 44
Runs: Sam Macken, IF, 57
Stolen Bases: Sam Macken, IF, 14
Wins: Sara Groenewegen, P/UTIL, 31
Innings Pitched: Sara Groenewegen, P/UTIL, 234.1
Strikeouts: Sara Groenewegen, P/UTIL, 379
Saves: Two with 2 each