Back at .500, Minnesota hoping success continues

After being clobbered by the eight-time national champion Arizona squad in its first two games, Minnesota softball turned things around and won three-straight as it left the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson, Ariz., last weekend. The successful end to the tournament brings MinnesotaâÄôs season record back to 13-13 as it returns to action this weekend at the Courtyard by Marriot Cardinal Invitational at Louisville. Each of the last three wins came through shut-outs pitched by senior Briana Hassett âÄî the last victory being a one-hit, 10 strikeout performance over 2008 Missouri Valley Conference champion Creighton. Claiming each of the GophersâÄô 13 wins this season, Hassett leads the Big Ten in wins, complete games (16), strikeouts (190) âÄî almost 40 more than second place âÄî and innings pitched (133). The Eagan, Minn., native also posts a solid earned run average of 2.30, and nine of her 20 starts this season have been shut-outs. As Hassett has been the primary pitcher for Minnesota this season, the senior has faced some ups and downs along the way. Most recently Hassett surrendered eight hits and 10 earned runs in ArizonaâÄôs comeback win in the first game of last weekendâÄôs tournament, after the Gophers took an early 4-0 lead against the No. 11 team in the nation. But Bernstein said MinnesotaâÄôs ace and the rest of her team learned from their mistakes and made the appropriate changes on way to three-straight shut-outs in the following days. âÄúWe were trying to see if they were going to miss a beat but they didnâÄôt,âÄù Bernstein said. âÄúThey came after it.âÄù While Hassett has picked up all of the teams wins and seven of its losses, the remaining six losses belong to freshman pitcher Alissa Koch. Koch âÄî the 2007 Wisconsin Division I High School Player of the Year âÄî has struggled in her first season of collegiate softball, with an 0-6 record and an ERA of 8.08. âÄúWe knew coming into this year that Alissa would be in a developmental stage,âÄù Bernstein said. âÄúItâÄôs a tough transition no matter how you look at it.âÄù But Bernstein said the freshman is constantly learning from the senior, as Hassett teaches with her actions on and off the mound. âÄúBriana is great with the younger kids,âÄù Bernstein said. âÄúAlissa is a lot like Briana and they really compliment each other. I think they are both going to put their names in the book for Minnesota softball.âÄù Koch will get her chance to prove what she is learning at this weekendâÄôs tournament in Louisville, Ky. âÄúIt would be great if she got some innings at our spring break trip,âÄù Bernstein said. âÄúShe knows what sheâÄôs got to do.âÄù