#25 Minnesota Softball 2014 Preview

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Overall Rank: #25
Conference Rank: #3 Big Ten
#25 Minnesota Softball 2014 Preview
Minnesota Team Page


The first thing Minnesota softball fans will notice right away is a milestone involving the person leading the action. Fourth-year coach Jessica Allister has a chance at 100 career victories with Minnesota if the Gophers can win two games this season. That’s a no-brainer. The other question is how will the Golden Gophers fare for an entire season? Minnesota finished third in the Big Ten regular season and lost the tournament championship game. That was enough to earn the Gophers their first NCAA appearance since 2003, and by that mark it was a very successful year. Many of the top players are back, and that could be a big reason why the Gophers take a big jump up in the standings.

2013: 36-19, 14-6
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Jessica Allister

Field Players:
The top two hitters are back for the Gophers, and it is a good thing they return (more on that in a moment). Utility hitter Kaitlyn Richardson led Minnesota last year with a .430 average, ten home runs, 43 runs batted in and six stolen bases to provide power and speed to the lineup. Infielder Tyler Walker (.379-12-32, 23 steals) had 69 hits and led the team, and together those two combined for 133 of Minnesota’s 329 hits. Speedsters Erica Meyer, Kayla Wenner and Bree Blanchette are back and they bring double-digit stolen bases with them. What they do not bring is batting average. Although Meyer hit .270 and Wenner had a .246 average, only two other players hit above .200. It is imperative Minnesota raise that team batting average if it hopes to have a better season. Nine hitters with batting averages below .200 does not cut the mustard for a softball team at the top of one of the nation’s best conferences.

Two of Minnesota’s three pitchers are back for the 2014 season, and Sara Moulton leads the way. Moulton had 308 strikeouts and 69 walks for a strong ratio. She struck out about 4.5 batters for every hitter walked, and that is the type of pitching performance that can hide bumps in the road like bad batting averages. Moulton also went 32-12 with a 1.57 earned run average. Nikki Anderson (4-4, 4.83) needs to lower the earned run average if she is to be a viable second pitcher, but right now it looks like Moulton will eat enough innings that they may not need too much more help.

Who to Watch:
Moulton is one of the Big Ten’s top pitchers, and she will be the glue that holds this team together. Richardson and Walker are the team’s top hitters. The fact all three return is going to be a good sign for the Golden Gophers. Look for those three to be the trio that holds Minnesota together.

Final Projection:
Even though eight hitters are below .200 on this team, Moulton’s pitching and the top hitting on this roster should help Minnesota achieve another solid season of 35-40 victories. Minnesota will have to face some teams from the Southeast like LSU, Florida and South Carolina. If the Golden Gophers can get through that rough early stretch, then 35-40 wins will be a definite possibility. It all depends on whether the hitting improves and the team develops more pitching.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Tyler Walker, IF, 182
Hits: Tyler Walker, IF, 69
Home Runs: Tyler Walker, IF, 12
RBIs: Kaitlyn Richardson, IF/OF, 43
Runs: Tyler Walker, IF, 53
Stolen Bases: Erika Meyer, IF/OF, 23

Wins: Sara Moulton, P, 32
Innings Pitched: Sara Moulton, P, 275.2
Strikeouts: Sara Moulton, P, 308
Saves: Sara Moulton, P, 2


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