Finally, Gophers get to stay home for a weekend

This Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m., the Minnesota softball team is scheduled to play its first two games this season on campus at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. The Gophers played in the Minnesota Softball Metrodome Classic in mid-February, but before and after that tournament the team traveled all over the nation to play its games. While Minnesota (20-19 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) may have waited long enough for its homecoming this weekend, with this weekâÄôs storm, the Gophers may have to wait even longer. âÄúHopefully we have some good weather so we can get those games in,âÄù senior pitcher Briana Hassett said. Anticipating her first home pitching performance this season in front of the home fans, Hassett said she was shocked when she woke up Tuesday morning and saw snow falling. But Hassett said she and her teammates are hoping the weather stays warm enough for them to play. âÄúI think we are all so excited to play in our own place, not sleeping in hotels,âÄù she said, as Minnesota has played in eight different road locations this season. âÄúIt will be a good feeling to be back in our home field and have all of our fans there to support us. âÄúWe just hope for that weather.âÄù If the Gophers do end up playing this weekend, the weather will not be the only difficulty to overcome. No. 17 Ohio State (24-6 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) is MinnesotaâÄôs scheduled match-up and would be one of the tougher opponents the Gophers have faced this season. The Buckeyes claim a power-laden offense, sporting six players with three or more home runs this season for a team total of 37 round-trippers. Ohio StateâÄôs pitching staff is no slouch either, as they have allowed only six home runs this season. While MinnesotaâÄôs pitching staff has mainly consisted of one player in Hassett, the senior has been dominating opponents enough to take on the load. Hassett is still leading the nation in strikeouts, and is first in the Big Ten in wins, innings pitched, appearances, starts, and seventh in era at 1.77. With the opportunity to pitch in front of her home crowd for the first time this season, the Eagan, Minn., native will need to maintain her premium pitching to sweep the Buckeyes. âÄúIf we score two runs we should be able to win the game,âÄù Hassett said. âÄúThatâÄôs a little goal that the pitching staff tries to go by.âÄù MinnesotaâÄôs sophomore first baseman Malissa Barnes has been doing all she can to help the offense and Hassett in recent games. Riding a career-high eight-game hitting-streak, Barnes is batting .483 with 10 RBIs, eight runs scored, three home runs and just one strikeout during that time. And with four-straight homes games on the way, including two next Wednesday against No. 8 Northwestern, Hassett said she is looking forward to pitching on the mound she has become comfortable with over the years. âÄúIâÄôm more relaxed when IâÄôm on my home mound,âÄù she said. âÄúI know what the dirt is going to be like, I know how itâÄôs going to be set up and the bull pens are a lot nicer for us. ItâÄôs a lot more convenient and IâÄôm more relaxed.âÄù