Hassett and Stemper working well together on and off field

Mark Heise

The pitching staff has been an integral part of the Minnesota softball team’s success this season, and sophomore pitcher Briana Hassett’s strong start might be most notable.

Hassett’s 1.92 ERA ranks her seventh among Big Ten pitchers this season, and her seven wins already top the six she recorded all last season.

Coach Lisa Bernstein said she has been impressed with the progression Hassett has shown since entering the organization, crediting the right-hander’s success to improved location.

“Briana was by far the best pitcher coming out of her class, and we knew we wanted her to be a Gopher and help get us to the next level,” Bernstein said. “She’s got a good combination of intelligence and athleticism, and she’s been able to use that to elevate her game.”

But some credit for Hassett’s increased strikeout-to-walk ratio and four shutouts has to go to roommate and friend Shannon Stemper, who, coincidently, is also a sophomore and Hassett’s battery mate this season.

In general, pitcher/catcher relationships have proven to be an important aspect of a pitcher’s success, making the friendship a beneficial one for the team.

But Stemper wasn’t about to take credit for Hassett’s strong play.

“Bri has an amazing work ethic,” Stemper explained. “She puts in the extra effort and that, combined with the experience from last year, has really helped her to come out ahead.”

Stemper and Hassett had competed against each other, but didn’t get to know one another until visiting the University. The two decided to room together as freshmen and have remained friends ever since.

“There’s basically no way you can’t get to know someone when you’re living with them in a 5-by-5 foot dorm room,” Hassett said. “So we got to know each other, and we clicked. I think we’ve got the same type of personality.”

The two also seem to share a sense of humor. Hassett picked on Stemper, bringing to attention a new elbow pad the catcher is sporting since being hit repeatedly while batting this season.

“I can’t believe she didn’t mention it, but it’s pretty massive,” Hassett joked. “It has about 4 inches of padding on it, and I think it’s made for a hockey player. Anyone coming to a game should definitely check that out.”

And in true roommate fashion, Stemper poked fun at Hassett in return, sharing a learning experience from freshmen season.

The young pitcher apparently was forgetting to pay attention to her defense that year, so during a scrimmage situation, Stemper said the entire defense sat down while Hassett was pitching.

“Bri didn’t even notice and kept on pitching,” Stemper said. “It was so funny – after a pitch or two, everyone just burst out laughing.”

The teammates know how to enjoy themselves, from handstand contests – which Hassett wins – to dancing to their music playlist on long bus rides to learning to wiggle their ears, compliments of redshirt freshman Heidi Carls.

All joking aside, Hassett and Stemper’s relationship appears to be only getting stronger. And with the defensive performances the Gophers have received from the two, it’d be hard to believe anyone would want them to do anything different.