After early no-hitter, freshman harnesses role of observer

Katie Dalen pitched the 14th no-hitter in school history right before her year ended.

Chris Lempesis

Minnesota’s softball team had high expectations for freshman pitcher Katie Dalen. And early on, Dalen delivered.

In just the seventh start of her career, Dalen recorded the 14th no-hitter in school history March 18 in the Gophers’ 8-0 win over Rhode Island at the Capital Classic in Sacramento, Calif. She was just two walks shy of throwing a perfect game.

Minnesota seemed to have found a No. 2 starter behind senior Lyn Peyer.

But nobody knew on that March afternoon that Katie Dalen would not pitch in a game again this season.

Dalen injured her groin shortly after the no-hitter and was informed two weeks ago that she was done for the year – a decision that she said was tough for her to hear.

“It was disappointing,” Dalen said. “Just because I couldn’t help the team the rest of the year.”

Dalen said she wasn’t exactly sure when she injured her groin, but she thinks it might have occurred during warm-ups before the team’s game with Oregon State the day after the no-hitter.

As it turned out, the game was ultimately rained out.

The Roseville, Minn., native then played the waiting game to see when the injury, which is particularly bad for pitchers, would heal. Dalen said it was a tough time for her.

“(It took) a lot of patience,” Dalen said. “I just kept going in for treatment, and they didn’t really know how long I’d be out.”

And although she now knows her season is done, she said she has made the most of her time on the bench.

Dalen said she has become a student of the game and has learned a lot from just watching.

She said her coaches have told her to look for strategic aspects, such as pitchers’ tendencies – in her words, “basically, what it is to be a dominant pitcher.”

Her coaches said they have certainly noticed Dalen noticing.

“A lot of it, to be very honest, is overwhelming for her,” co-coach Lisa Bernstein said. “But every time she hears it and sees it in action, it becomes a little bit more clear, a little bit more concise and a little bit more, in her mind, doable, as a freshman.”

Another possible bright spot can be found in the fact that Dalen might be able to get a redo of her freshman year if she is given a medical redshirt by the NCAA.

Dalen said she was not quite sure when she will find out about her status for next season. But she is sure that she still wants four more years to deliver on that early promise.

“What she’s gained this year (is) being around our successful pitching staff and being around pitchers and catchers in all these situations,” Bernstein said. “I think time will only tell. But I’ve never seen it hurt a kid; that’s for darn sure.”