Long away stretch culminates in two Big Ten wins over Indiana

Losing four-of-five games March 13 to March 15 during its tournament in Louisville, Ky., may not have been the ideal way for the University of Minnesota softball team to kick of its 11-game spring break road-trip. But after two-straight 11-1 victories against Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis and a split with Butler, the Gophers finished spring break on a high note by shutting out Indiana twice on the road in their Big Ten opening weekend. âÄúWeâÄôre sick of hotels and the smell of hotel rooms,âÄù Minnesota coach Lisa Bernstein said. âÄúItâÄôs a long time to be on the road, but IâÄôm proud of how the kids put that aside and were ready to get after it.âÄù Playing five games in three days during its first tournament of the break hurt Minnesota (19-18 overall, 2-0 Big Ten), as the team lost a pair of games in extra innings âÄî including a 3-2 setback versus No. 17 Louisville. The GophersâÄô struggles culminated with a hitless effort in their 11-0 loss to University of Illinois-Chicago in the final game of the tournament on March 15. âÄúThe Illinois-Chicago game got out of hand early and was a humbling loss for us,âÄù Bernstein said. But on Tuesday MinnesotaâÄôs shortstop Brianna Sudenga helped the Gophers storm back with two 10-run wins in a double-header against IUPUI, as the sophomore went 4-for-4 at the plate in the two games. Sudenga finished with a home run, a double, seven runs batted in and four runs scored, all while playing errorless defense at shortstop against the Jaguars. Two days later Minnesota battled through another double-header against Butler, dropping another close game 5-4 but breaking out in the nightcap with a 13-1 win. Freshman pitcher Alissa Koch âÄî the losing pitcher in the Gophers 11-0 thumping by Illinois-Chicago âÄî responded four days later by recording her first collegiate victory in the second game against Butler, holding the Bulldogs to four hits and striking out five to improve her record to 1-7 on the year. âÄúWe played great defense behind her and hit the ball well. so it was a great day for Minnesota softball,âÄù Bernstein said. Going 2-for-3 in each game against Butler, Sudenga continued her torrid hitting and was 8-for-10 in the four games leading into conference play. The improved play continued as the Gophers traveled to Indiana for its first Big Ten game of the season, putting together a solid overall effort in a 6-0 win against the Hoosiers in game one Saturday. âÄúIt was nice today to come in and play one game because our kids are used to playing back-to-back-to-back-to-back,âÄù Bernstein said. The Gophers jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning by playing small-ball, as three singles, a walk, a hit-by-pitch, an Indiana error and a double-steal helped Minnesota gain the early lead. Senior pitcher Briana Hassett added to her Big Ten-leading win total with No. 17 on the season, while also striking out 14 Hoosier batters to increase her conference best strikeout total of 267. Hassett gave up only two hits in her eleventh complete-game shutout this season. The senior standout gave up only one hit with 11 strikeouts in MinnesotaâÄôs 2-0 win against Indiana on Sunday. âÄúShe [Hassett] did a great job for us and did exactly what we expected her to do,âÄù Bernstein said.