Minnesota loses out on sweep in bottom of the seventh

Losing 7-of-9 games going into its midweek double-header with Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota softball team was in need of a pick-me-up entering the last-stretch of the 2009 season. The Gophers got exactly what they needed to get back on track with a 4-0 win in the first game Wednesday, but fell with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning 2-1 in the nightcap to split with the Badgers. After a stretch of six games against ranked opponents in early April, MinnesotaâÄôs impressive 3-1 start to the Big Ten season quickly faded to a 4-6 conference mark. In the entirety of the season, Minnesota has played 10 games against currently-ranked opponents, going only 1-9 in those games. But since what might have been their toughest stretch of games this season, the GophersâÄô (23-26 overall, 6-8 Big Ten) schedule got drastically easier, paying off with a 2-2 record in that time. âÄúThe Big Ten is competitive; itâÄôs a dog fight,âÄù Gophers co-head coach Lisa Bernstein said. âÄúWe would have liked to have been 4-0 instead of 2-2 in these past four games.âÄù After losing its last two games against ranked Michigan, senior infielder Colleen Conway predicted MinnesotaâÄôs record would improve once it started its softer schedule âÄî not having any ranked teams left to play in the regular season. Splitting with Penn State (16-20, 5-7) over the weekend âÄî including a walk-off extra-inning win on Sunday âÄî Minnesota managed another split with Wisconsin (13-33, 2-10) on Wednesday. While MinnesotaâÄôs bats have been inconsistent for most of the season, the one constant has been the pitching of senior Briana Hassett. The Gophers have seen tremendous success when its pitchers hold their opponent to two runs or less âÄî a 20-7 Minnesota record âÄî which Hassett did in both games. Hassett dominated the Badgers in the first game Wednesday, picking up her 14th complete game shutout on the season while also picking up her fourth one hitter against a struggling Wisconsin squad. âÄúShe did a great job for us,âÄù Bernstein said of Hassett. âÄúShe wants to be out there for her team, and itâÄôs disappointing we arenâÄôt putting up more runs for her.âÄù The shutout for the Gophers senior hurler tied Vicki SwansonâÄôs 1978 school record for shutouts in a single season. In the second game, MinnesotaâÄôs offense started strong once again by getting on the board first through a home run by second baseman Sammie Howard in the first inning. But that would be all the Gophers offense could muster as the game was tied at 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh when Wisconsin hit its walk-off single âÄî snapping an 11-game losing streak. âÄúItâÄôs disappointing,âÄù Bernstein said. âÄúTheyâÄôre playing with all their heart and soul, and itâÄôs tough they couldnâÄôt come up with a win.âÄù