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The Gophers softball team opens conference play on Friday in Evanston, Ill., against the only Big Ten team currently ranked in the Top 25 — Northwestern, the defending conference regular-season champion.

The Gophers and the No. 21-ranked Wildcats both open conference play on a roll.

The Gophers (19-10) have won eight of their past nine games. A 6-0 loss at No. 2 Oklahoma State on Saturday ended an eight-game winning streak.

Northwestern (14-8), which reached the Women's College World Series last year for the third time under coach Kate Drohan, has won four straight and six of its past seven.

So far this season, the Gophers are 5-3 against teams ranked in the Top 25.

The Gophers have relied on the slugging of Taylor Krapf, Natalie DenHartog and Jess Oakland and the pitching of Autumn Pease.

Krapf, a catcher and transfer from Duke, has hit nine home runs and has a slugging percentage of .753, DenHartog has hit seven home runs, including three last weekend, and Oakland has hit six. Krapf and Oakland, a freshman, each have 25 RBI as the Gophers have slugged 37 home runs.

Pease is 12-3 with a 1.34 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 99 innings. Pease has already surpassed her victory total for last season, when she was 11-14.