Without a chance for postseason play, Gophers have winning on the brain

This time last year the Minnesota softball team was gearing up for the Big Ten tournament after four-straight wins to cap of the regular season. The Gophers finished 29-16 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten in 2008, ending with a loss to No. 12 Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. With its last two games of the 2009 regular season coming this weekend at Iowa, Minnesota (23-30 overall, 6-12 Big Ten) finds itself in a much different situation than last year as it prepares to end its season this weekend instead of springing into post-season play. âÄúItâÄôs a little hard because we have a great group of girls and we didnâÄôt get as far as we did last year,âÄù senior pitcher Briana Hassett said. âÄúBut itâÄôs always changing because of the teams we have to face each year so itâÄôs hard to compare.âÄù Finishing with a record below .500 this season and without a chance to win the Big Ten tournament as it was cut from the schedule this season, the Gophers have known for a few weeks that they would miss the playoffs this year. But Hassett said that has not affected the teams desire to keep competing in its remaining games. âÄúItâÄôs definitely hard knowing weâÄôre not going to move on, but I have enjoyed playing with our team and it hasnâÄôt really changed the way we have approached games,âÄù she said. Minnesota is set to finish with its first losing season since 2006 when it went 17-33 on the season and 1-17 in Big Ten play. Facing tough competition on the road during much of the non-conference slate, the Gophers had high hopes coming into conference play. Minnesota claimed a 13-1 win over Butler on March 19 to bring its record to 17-18 in closing out the non-conference portion of this seasonâÄôs schedule. But aspirations of returning to the post-season faded toward the end of the conference schedule, as the Gophers lost an array of close games and were unable to come up with enough offense to come from behind. âÄúWeâÄôre all a little disappointed but weâÄôre not going to define our whole season just by how far we make it at the end,âÄù Hassett said. âÄúWeâÄôre still proud of a lot that weâÄôve done and we look forward to these next two games.âÄù After three wins to start the Big Ten schedule, Minnesota has lost 9-of-12 games entering this weekends series with the Hawkeyes. âÄúWe let some weaker teams beat us because we didnâÄôt always play at our highest level,âÄù Hassett said. âÄúBut you just kind of have to move on from that.âÄù Appearing in 49 of the teams 53 games, Hassett has been a work-horse for the Gophers in the final collegiate season, sporting a stellar 1.83 era. In the 2-1 extra-inning loss to Illinois on Sunday, Hassett (22-23) struck out seven to increase her season total to 401 to become just the fourth pitcher in Big Ten history to reach 400 strikeouts in a season. But the abundance of games and has caused the seniorâÄôs arm to get tired in recent weeks. âÄúIt has been wearing down,âÄù Hassett said of her arm. âÄúBut IâÄôm really happy that IâÄôve gotten this opportunity so there are no complaints.âÄù However, Hassett said she is ready to pitch two more games this weekend to close out the Gophers season and her storied Minnesota career. âÄúIowa is a great team to go out on because theyâÄôre a great team and really competitive, and we usually have great battles with them,âÄù she said. âÄúSo I think it will be some really fun games.âÄù