‘Twin towers’ at the helm of hot playing Gophers

Junior pitchers Briana Hassett and Katie Dalen are combining for a 2.01 season ERA.

by Mark Heise

Glance at the Minnesota softball team’s pitching staff and you may think you’re seeing double.

Junior pitchers Briana Hassett and Katie Dalen couldn’t have more similarities if they tried. They run together, practice together, live in the same apartment building and even share a dry, sarcastic sense of humor, according to their catcher.

And people have noticed the similarities, as the two tall, blonde, right-handed hurlers have earned the nickname “the twin towers” among their teammates.

“Double trouble” might be more appropriate, however, especially from an opposing team’s perspective. The duo have shut down opponents all season long, combining for a 2.01 ERA, including a stingy 0.20 ERA over the last 10 games.

While both pitchers have seen success early this year, adding to the countless parallels, if you look closely, you can find a difference or two wedged in.

“It’s funny because they’re very different people,” junior catcher Shannon Stemper said. “But they look similar and they have the same pitching style in the sense that they both throw hard. You have to learn to interact with each of them in a different way.”

Stemper said that Hassett likes a quieter atmosphere in the circle, while Dalen thrives off of a lot of chatter with her teammates.

Another difference is the pitching style itself, as Hassett uses a powerful rise-ball and screwball, while Dalen, who can also throw heat, prefers a curveball and changeup.

“She gets more strikeouts, while I look for more groundouts or pop flies,” Dalen said of the pitches. “She has a rise-ball and I don’t. But our mentality is the same; get ahead of hitters and make them earn it.”

Pitching coach Piper Martin said the only other difference between the two pitchers on her staff is the way they prepare for games.

“Briana needs the scouting report, that’s really how she prepares for games,” Martin said. “Katie has a little more of a different approach. She knows the batters she needs to be careful with, but she’s out there trying to make them hit her pitch.”

Aside from these few distinctions, along with the fact that Dalen is academically one year ahead of Hassett, the two are very comparable.

In fact, the pitchers played on the same summer-league team, and this connection helped draw Hassett to the Gophers.

“A lot of times there’s a lot of controversy among pitchers on teams, and since I already knew Katie, I thought it would be a good fit for me,” Hassett said. “She was actually my host on my recruiting trip here.”

Dalen said that the two fit so well because neither of them was “high maintenance,” and then jokingly took credit for Hassett choosing Minnesota.

“I was with her on her recruiting visit, so I kind of got to sell the school to her,” she said.

But when it came to asking about the similarities, Dalen was quick to find one difference between her and Hassett.

“I’m a morning person and Briana’s not,” she joked.