Including two-straight wins at Indiana to start the Big Ten season, the Minnesota softball team went 5-1 during spring break to improve its record to 19-18 on the season.
All six of Minnesota’s games over spring break were on the road, and this weekend the Gophers continue their road play when they travel to West Lafayette, Ind., for two games with Purdue.
Minnesota has not played a home game since Feb. 15 during the Minnesota Softball Metrodome Classic, which was not even played in its home facility – Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
A huge reason for the Gophers success during spring break was the play of senior pitcher Briana Hassett, who claimed a 4-1 record and a stellar .081 earned run average during that time and was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week.
"Briana did a tremendous job for Minnesota softball last week," Gophers co-head coach Lisa Bernstein said. "She threw the ball extremely well, mixed all of her pitches effectively, and we’re really proud of her effort.”
For the week, Hassett allowed just nine hits and an opponent batting average of .102, while striking out 52 batters in 26.0 innings pitched – an average of two strikeouts per inning.
Hassett also held Indiana to a total of three hits, while fanning 25 Hoosiers batters in 14 innings on the mound.
The Eagan, Minn., native has struck out a career-high 278 batters this season to lead all of NCAA Division I softball, well ahead of Troy’s Ashlyn Williams – who ranks second with 216 strikeouts.
Boasting 18 of Minnesota’s 19 wins this season, Hassett is also second in the nation in wins.
A second-team all-Big Ten selection last season, Hassett currently leads the Big Ten in wins (18), appearances (33), games started (29), complete games (22), shutouts (12), innings pitched (184 1/3), and strikeouts (278).
While she said the recent accolades and statistical successes have been nice, Hassett said she was not expecting them coming into this season.
“It happened kind of naturally,” she said. I think its my style of pitching.”
But Hassett did say that the honors have been a pleasant surprise.
“It’s pretty cool, but you have to make sure you stay focused,” Hassett said. “It’s a good surprise, but it still comes down to the wins.”
The Gophers will need Hassett to stay consistent in order to continue their hot-streak throughout the Big Ten season, which continues this weekend against the Boilermakers (16-8 overall, 2-0 Big Ten).
“The Big Ten is a tough conference, anything can happen,” Hassett said.
Purdue returns 14 letter winners from the 2008 team that earned the first NCAA Tournament berth and victory in program history, and is currently riding a four-game win-streak.
The Boilermakers kicked off its 2009 campaign by doing something no other Purdue softball team had before, topping No. 4 UCLA 2-1 on Feb. 7.
Prior to the contest against the Bruins, the Boilermakers were 0-18 against top-5 teams in program history.
“Purdue is a great team,” Hassett said. “We beat them in the Big Ten tourney last year, so we know they will come out hungry.”
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