Gopher Roundup: Spring sports getting underway

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Don't look now, but spring is just around the corner, and let us be the first to echo what you're thinking when you hear that: It's about time.

Of course if the University of Minnesota only played spring sports when it was spring, it would be an awful short season, so mid-February brings baseball and softball action back to campus year-in and year-out. Well, not necessarily back to campus.

The baseball team begins their 2014 campaign this weekend, and with a new season comes a set of circumstances they haven't had to face in 30 years.

As you may be aware, the Metrodome is being torn down, and the Gophers have been able to use the teflon-enclosed structure to play their early-season games since striking a deal with the Dome in 1985.

Heck, since old Siebert Field's bleachers were condemned as unsafe a number of years back, the Gophers have essentially used the home of the Twins and Vikings as their full-time venue since 2009.

Now, with a new Siebert Field a year into existence and the Metrodome nearly gone, the Gophers were faced with the task of finding places to play games until April.

Mission accomplished, as the Gophers opened their season today against Northern Illinois in Glendale, Arizona, a 3-2 win in extra innings. Minnesota has two more this weekend against NIU, and will be on the road the next six weekends, playing 21 games in that stretch.

As for the Gopher softball team, ranked No. 24 in the nation in the most recent ESPN.com poll after starting the season with five straight wins in last week's Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, they have a big weekend ahead as well.

The 2013 NCAA regional participants are in Las Vegas for the Easton Desert Classic, which will feature the nationally-ranked Gophers taking on the country's No. 1 team Sunday, the Florida Gators.

Minnesota is led by 2013 All-American Kaitlyn Richardson and 2013 All-Conference infielder Tyler Walker, while they also sport a top arm in the circle, defending Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Sara Moulton, who tossed three shutouts last weekend.

In one other bit of news on the Gopher front, the Gopher wrestling team, No. 1 in the nation after a win over previous No. 1 Penn State last weekend, are at the National Duals in Columbus, Ohio Sunday and Monday.

The Gophers feature 8 wrestlers ranked in the top-10 of their weight classes, including the nation's top 197-pounder Scott Schiller.

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