Road stretch continues to Minnesota

Including two-straight wins at Indiana to start the Big Ten season, the Minnesota softball team went 5-1 during spring break to improve its record to 19-18 on the season. All six of MinnesotaâÄôs games over spring break were on the road, and this weekend the Gophers continue their road play when they travel to West Lafayette, Ind., for two games with Purdue. Minnesota has not played a home game since Feb. 15 during the Minnesota Softball Metrodome Classic, which was not even played in its home facility âÄì Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. A huge reason for the Gophers success during spring break was the play of senior pitcher Briana Hassett, who claimed a 4-1 record and a stellar .081 earned run average during that time and was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week. “Briana did a tremendous job for Minnesota softball last week,” Gophers co-head coach Lisa Bernstein said. “She threw the ball extremely well, mixed all of her pitches effectively, and weâÄôre really proud of her effort.âÄù For the week, Hassett allowed just nine hits and an opponent batting average of .102, while striking out 52 batters in 26.0 innings pitched âÄì an average of two strikeouts per inning. Hassett also held Indiana to a total of three hits, while fanning 25 Hoosiers batters in 14 innings on the mound. The Eagan, Minn., native has struck out a career-high 278 batters this season to lead all of NCAA Division I softball, well ahead of TroyâÄôs Ashlyn Williams âÄì who ranks second with 216 strikeouts. Boasting 18 of MinnesotaâÄôs 19 wins this season, Hassett is also second in the nation in wins. A second-team all-Big Ten selection last season, Hassett currently leads the Big Ten in wins (18), appearances (33), games started (29), complete games (22), shutouts (12), innings pitched (184 1/3), and strikeouts (278). While she said the recent accolades and statistical successes have been nice, Hassett said she was not expecting them coming into this season. âÄúIt happened kind of naturally,âÄù she said. I think its my style of pitching.âÄù But Hassett did say that the honors have been a pleasant surprise. âÄúItâÄôs pretty cool, but you have to make sure you stay focused,âÄù Hassett said. âÄúItâÄôs a good surprise, but it still comes down to the wins.âÄù The Gophers will need Hassett to stay consistent in order to continue their hot-streak throughout the Big Ten season, which continues this weekend against the Boilermakers (16-8 overall, 2-0 Big Ten). âÄúThe Big Ten is a tough conference, anything can happen,âÄù Hassett said. Purdue returns 14 letter winners from the 2008 team that earned the first NCAA Tournament berth and victory in program history, and is currently riding a four-game win-streak. The Boilermakers kicked off its 2009 campaign by doing something no other Purdue softball team had before, topping No. 4 UCLA 2-1 on Feb. 7. Prior to the contest against the Bruins, the Boilermakers were 0-18 against top-5 teams in program history. âÄúPurdue is a great team,âÄù Hassett said. âÄúWe beat them in the Big Ten tourney last year, so we know they will come out hungry.âÄù