Coming off a 5-0 weekend, the Minnesota softball team has proven that it can put up big numbers both offensively and from a pitching standpoint.
Now it will be up to the Gophers to show how consistent they can be, as they travel to the Tennessee-Martin Tournament to take on five more teams.
Minnesota faces Dartmouth at 3 p.m. Friday before taking on Northern Iowa at 10 a.m Saturday and Ball State at 3 p.m. The Gophers play Tennessee-Martin and Indiana on Sunday in back-to- back games, which begin at 10 a.m.
After out-scoring opponents 25-3 in five games last weekend, coach Lisa Bernstein expressed confidence in her team's development so far this season.
"Our goal is to keep getting better each day, and we've been doing that," she said. "Everyone is maximizing their personal potential so far this year, and we've gotten production from all parts of the lineup."
But it was Minnesota's pitching that really stood out last week, as juniors Briana Hassett and Katie Dalen shut down the competition.
Hassett went 3-0 over the weekend, with a 0.35 ERA in 20 innings of work to earn Big Ten Player of the Week, while Dalen continued to improve and impress, walking just one batter en route to a 2-0 weekend record.
"Last weekend our pitching got a lot stronger," freshman shortstop Brianna Sudenga said. "Briana gave up just one run, and Katie only walked one batter, it was an amazing weekend for them."
Dalen, who lowered her ERA to 3.86 while winning her third consecutive game, had fairly simple answers for her early-season improvement, and the pitching staff's dominance in general.
"We're working on getting ahead of hitters and hitting our spots," she said. "I think we're getting into a rhythm out there now that we've had a little bit of a wake-up call."
But Bernstein said Dalen's steady improvement wasn't the only thing the pitcher brings to the team this year, noting Dalen's work ethic and focus.
"Katie's a great team player," Bernstein said. "She's dedicated and she's coachable, and our infield loves to play behind her. All those things factor in to her success."
Obviously team-oriented, Dalen was quick to divert any of that attention away from herself, complimenting the offense Minnesota has been able to put forth so far this season.
"The offensive support has really helped, because you know that your team is going to fight for you," Dalen said. "They've come back in several games so far, and we can count on them scoring plenty of runs for us."
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