Gophers shortstop Oakland named Big Ten softball player of the year

Gophers shortstop Jess Oakland was named Big Ten softball player of the year Wednesday, becoming the first Minnesota player to win that award since Kendyl Lindaman in 2018.

Oakland, a sophomore from San Jose, Calif., entered Wednesday's Big Ten tournament opener against Illinois batting a Big Ten best .455 batting average with 19 home runs, a .553 on-base percentage and .926 slugging percentage.

Oakland has set a single-season program record in runs scored (68) and has been a dependable everyday shortstop for a Gophers team that is 27-24 and seeded fifth in the Big Ten tournament.

Gophers junior catcher Taylor Krapf joined Oakland on the All-Big Ten first team. Krapf is batting .316 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI.

Second baseman Sydney Strelow and center fielder Morgan DeBord were named to the All-Big Ten second team and joined Oakland on the conference's all-defensive team. DeBord is a transfer from Loyola Marymount.

Last year, the Gophers had the Big Ten pitcher of the year in Autumn Pease, who was in her final collegiate season.

Gophers beat Illinois on walk-off blast

The fifth-seeded Gophers softball team defeated 12th-seeded Illinois 10-7 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on a three-run, walk-off homer by Krapf with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday in Iowa City.

Freshman Macy Richardson (6-4) got the win out of the bullpen for Minnesota (28-24). The righthander went four innings, giving up two runs, both earned. Illinois dropped to 21-31.

Oakland walked in all six of her plate appearances, three times intentionally.

The Gophers will face fourth-seeded Nebraska (29-22) in a quarterfinal at 1:30 p.m. Thursday (BTN).