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Hassett shines once more in 13-inning gem

The Gophers’ ace pitched 13 scoreless innings Sunday as Minnesota recorded the 1-0 win.

The Minnesota softball team earned its wins this weekend.

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south Dakota State university
what: Softball
when: 4 p.m., Thursday
where: Minneapolis

The Gophers (23-14 overall, 6-6 Big Ten) played 12 innings in Illinois and 20 at No. 25 Iowa to split series with both squads, improving their chances at a Big Ten Tournament berth.

“It was a very successful weekend,” coach Lisa Bernstein said. “A split on the road is fantastic, and I’m proud of the effort of these kids.”

Junior pitcher Briana Hassett kept the dangerous offense of Illinois at bay Friday, striking out nine while allowing six hits to complete her eighth shutout of the season.

Offensively, Minnesota’s infield provided just enough spark to win, collecting six of the team’s seven hits and driving home a pair of runs.

Junior third baseman Colleen Conway scored freshman shortstop Brianna Sudenga on an RBI groundout in the third to open up the Gophers’ scoring.

Senior second baseman Amber Nelsen’s RBI single in the sixth brought home freshman first baseman Malisa Barnes, tacking on the insurance run in the 2-0 win.

The dormant Illini offense woke up for the second game of the series however, hammering out 12 hits to score 10 runs in just four innings of work.

Illinois (27-24, 6-8) collected seven hits in a six-run second inning, and the Gophers were unable to recover, losing by the eight-run mercy rule, 10-2.

Hoping to rebound from the loss, the team traveled to Iowa Sunday, escaping the big bats, but meeting up with strong pitching.

Iowa (32-14, 10-4) took the first game as Brittany Weil out-dueled Minnesota’s Hassett in the matchup of junior pitchers, scattering five hits to shut out the Gophers.

Hassett was in control throughout the game as well, allowing just four hits. But the Hawkeyes managed to push two runs across, one earned, to edge out the Minnesota ace, 2-0.

The Gophers had only one true scoring opportunity in the game, as juniors Conway and Shannon Stemper bunched a pair of hits together to put runners on second and third in the sixth.

A two-out walk loaded the bases, but Minnesota failed to take advantage of its opportunity, ending the inning with a strikeout.

“It was pretty tough on us,” Hassett said. “Iowa’s got some good pitching and solid defense. It was hard to push across runs.”

Hassett remained in the lineup for the second game as well, and produced her third gem of the weekend.

Both teams collected just three hits over the first seven innings, heading into extra innings tied at zero.

Minnesota’s best opportunity to score was squandered in the fourth, when a pair of errors gave the Gophers runners on first and second with no one out. But three strikeouts followed, stranding both.

After 12 scoreless innings, Minnesota managed to sneak a run across in the 13th.

Senior outfielder Sila Fernandez and Barnes led off the inning with back-to-back singles, and Fernandez came around to score on a two-out error.

Fernandez led the team with four hits, and was finally rewarded, scoring on Nelson’s grounder.

“I actually didn’t know she scored until I turned around and saw her cross the plate,” Nelson said. “It was amazing to finally score after twelve innings, and we were going to take it any way possible.”

Hassett finished off the Hawkeyes in the bottom of the inning, ending the 13-inning shutout with 15 strikeouts.

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