The letter ‘K’ brought to you Briana Hassett

Although in softball there are many possible outcomes from an at-bat, nearly half of the hitters facing Minnesota pitcher Briana Hassett this season have ended their at-bat with the exact same outcome: strikeout. In her 35 appearances (31 starts) this season, Hassett is averaging 10.3 strikeouts per seven innings pitched. âÄúStrikeouts are just something that kind of happens,âÄù Hassett said. âÄúYou donâÄôt focus on strikeouts but just on getting the person out.âÄù With a calm demeanor on the mound and what Hassett describes as a âÄúsmooth and slowâÄù pitching delivery, the senior often fools batters when a fastball shoots towards home plate. âÄúA lot of people have said itâÄôs kind of deceiving,âÄù Hassett said about her delivery. Throughout her pitching career, Hassett has relied upon the speed of her pitches to blow away batters, but in the last few years she has added a nasty curveball and impeccable pitch placement. âÄúIâÄôve always gotten a lot of strikeouts, itâÄôs kind of my style,âÄù Hassett said. âÄúBut I didnâÄôt when I first got to college, so IâÄôve had to work at it too. In high school you kind of just wing it in there and hope your speed gets you through.âÄù While she has been mowing down batters all season for Minnesota (20-19 overall, 3-1 Big Ten), it has been difficult to see how HassettâÄôs statistics match up with national competition. But when the first official NCAA Division I statistics were released one week ago, any doubt that MinnesotaâÄôs top pitcher was also one of the top pitchers in the nation was put to rest. At the time, the Eagan, Minn., native was 62 strikeouts ahead of the pitcher in second place by throwing 278 strikeouts through games as of March 22. After a split with Purdue this past weekend, Hassett has added to those numbers and now holds 291 strikeouts this season âÄì most likely still the nationâÄôs top mark. âÄúItâÄôs really great, but IâÄôd rather have our team be at the top of the Big Ten and winning more games,âÄù she said Hassett is also well on her way to shattering MinnesotaâÄôs single-season record for strikeouts, held by assistant coach Piper Marten âÄì who registered 311 strikeouts during the 2003 season. âÄúWe donâÄôt really talk about the records,âÄù Hassett said about her relationship with Martin. âÄúI think we know whatâÄôs really important.âÄù Hassett also holds 19 of the Gophers 20 wins this season , good for second in the nation in wins, with a 1.77 earned run average in 197 innings pitched. Recently, Hassett was rewarded for her efforts by being named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week during games March 16-22. She started five of the six games for the Gophers, and posted a record of 4-1 with a 0.81 earned run average. “Briana did a tremendous job for Minnesota softball last week,” Gophers co-head coach Lisa Bernstein said after Hassett won the award. “She threw the ball extremely well, mixed all of her pitches effectively, and weâÄôre really proud of her effort.” Along with pitching nearly every game for Minnesota this season, Hassett has also been entrusted with mentoring another one of the Gophers pitchers in freshman Alissa Koch. Koch is 1-7 on the year with a 6.12 era , but Hassett believes that Minnesota will soon have another solid pitcher as Koch works through her freshman year. âÄúThere is nothing you need to change about her, itâÄôs just the good old freshman year where everything is changing,âÄù Hassett said. And having Hassett as a role model might not be a bad thing either. âÄúBriana is great with the younger kids,âÄù Bernstein said. âÄúI think they are both going to put their names in the book for Minnesota softball.âÄù While her collegiate softball career with Minnesota wraps up this spring, Hassett will continue playing softball this summer in the Netherlands with teammate Shannon Stemper. But before that happens, Hassett wants to take Minnesota as far as it can go in the postseason, with the ball in her hands. âÄúI want to be known for being someone that my team can depend on,âÄù she said. âÄúWhen itâÄôs a hard time and the bases are loaded, I want to be the person with the ball.âÄù