Gophers pitching staff continues its domination

Minnesota did not give up a run all weekend as they went 5-0 in Tennessee.

Untouchable may be the best way to describe the Minnesota Softball team right now.

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western michigan
what: Softball
when: 11 a.m., Friday
where: Atlanta

The Gophers swept their second tournament in a row, outscoring their opponents 18-0 in five games to win the Tennessee-Martin tournament and extend their winning streak to 10 games.

Minnesota continued to use this year’s unofficial slogan of “a new hero every game” literally, receiving help from all parts of the lineup to roll through another nonconference tournament.

“It’s really been a team effort, which is especially exciting,” freshman first baseman Malisa Barnes said. “Most teams have just a few key players, but with us, it hasn’t just been one person, everyone is contributing.

“You can’t predict who will come through each game, but you know someone will.”

Barnes collected six hits and three RBI over the weekend, providing some of that offensive spark.

Aside from offensive production up and down the lineup, the Gophers probably could have skated through the tournament on pitching alone, as juniors Katie Dalen and Briana Hassett gave up a combined 13 hits over 35 innings, not allowing a run.

“I think we’re both in a really good place right now,” Hassett said. “We’re getting more comfortable out there.”

Hassett tossed a record-setting 17 strikeouts against Dartmouth and watched comfortably as her offense backed her up, providing 10 hits from eight different players.

Hassett followed the 7-0 win over Dartmouth with a 1-0 victory over Northern Iowa, a team that bested the Gophers at the Metrodome two weekends ago. Hassett set down 12 in the game, while allowing just one hit.

The Gophers weren’t as successful offensively in this game, but the “new hero every game” philosophy came shining through as senior outfielder Casey Wheeler homered out of the ninth slot in the batting order in the fifth, accounting for the only run of the game.

“We’re strong hitters, one through nine,” coach Lisa Bernstein said. “We aren’t looking for one person to jack the ball out of the park, but when it does happen we’ll certainly take it.”

Hassett would throw one more shutout, holding Tennessee-Martin to two hits and striking out 14 to improve to 10-2 on the year with a 1.22 ERA.

The top of the lineup consistently hit well, over the weekend, and this game was no different as the top five slots provided seven hits and five runs scored. As a team, Minnesota scored six on nine hits, only one being for extra bases.

Not to be outdone, Dalen posted a 3-0 victory over Ball State Saturday, allowing just two hits in the shutout. Senior outfielder Amber Nelsen provided a spark with a solo homer from the cleanup spot, and Barnes doubled home a run from the three spot.

Dalen finished up the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Indiana State on Sunday, scattering five hits for the shutout. The Gophers scored on an RBI single from Nelson, driving home senior outfielder Sila Fernandez in the first inning.

Minnesota has allowed one run over the last nine games played. But as amazing as those numbers are, Hassett said they weren’t shocking.

“I wouldn’t say the word ‘surprised,’ ” she said. “Katie and I have really high expectations for ourselves, and we’re getting great support from our team. They’re playing great defense behind us, and giving us good run support.”