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Gophers open up tournament with two big wins at Metrodome

Minnesota beat Western Illinois 8-2 before clobbering Tennessee Tech 7-0.

A pair of complete-game wins from the one-two-punch of junior pitchers Katie Dalen and Brianna Hassett propelled the Minnesota softball team to a 2-0 start in this weekend’s Metrodome Classic.

The Gophers picked up an 8-2 win over Western Illinois in the early evening before shutting out Tennessee Tech 7-0 in the second game of the night.

Hassett and Dalen combined for 14 innings of work while striking out 21 – performances co-head coach Lisa Bernstein would like to see last all season.

“They both went out there with one thing on their minds – to win ball games,” Bernstein said. “They’re both juniors and they got quite a bit of experience. They know that its just those two going out on the mound this year, there’s no one else to come clean up anything.”

After the games, Hassett talked about what makes the pitching duo so successful.

“We both have different styles, she’s more curve and I’m more screw,” Hassett said. “We work well together because we have differences and we’re really self-motivated.”

In the first game of the double-header, the Gophers plated their first three batters – taking an early 3-0 lead that would be enough to handle the Westerwinds.

After junior infielder Colleen Conway walked and stole her first of three bases in the game, senior outfielder Sila Fernandez doubled before freshman infielder Malisa Barnes knocked both her teammates home with a triple to right field.

The Phoenix native would herself cross the plate later in the inning.

And that was all Minnesota would need as Dalen kept Western Illinois scoreless in six out of seven innings – giving up just one earned run, walking one and fanning seven to pick up her first win of the young season.

The Gophers (5-3 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) defense tallied just one error behind her.

The second game of the night was similar to the first with focused pitching, stingy defense and plenty of hitting – at least from Minnesota’s point of view.

Junior catcher Shannon Stemper blasted a three-run home run to left-center in the first inning to open up the floodgates.

“I saw a pitch up in the zone and got my hands through it,” Stemper said. “It was a good swing. It felt good because I didn’t do a whole lot the first game.”

Minnesota would tack on four more runs over the course of the contest while only managing five hits in the win.

On the mound, Hassett struck out 14 batters and did not issue a single walk in the complete game shutout.

Golden Eagles senior infielder Beth Boden picked up the only hit off of Hassett – a first inning single to right field.

And after committing only one error against Western Illinois, the Gophers improved that statistic to zero against the Golden Eagles.

“I was real pleased to see us play this strong in this tournament. The kids pitched well, first and foremost, we took care of the ball in the circle,” Bernstein said. “We came through and we hit, and we played great defense. I think we had one little mistake in 14 solid innings.”

The Gophers continue tournament play today at 5:30 p.m. against Northern Iowa.

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