MINNESOTA PLAYS HOST TO SIXTH-RANKED WILDCATS ON BIG TEN NETWORK
Minnesota plays its second consecutive series against a nationally-ranked foe when it plays host to 6th-ranked Northwestern in a doubleheader at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. (CT). The Golden Gophers are 20-21 overall and tied for fifth in the Big Ten with a mark of 3-3 following a tough pair of 1-0 losses at home versus #17 Ohio State on Saturday.
Minnesota senior pitcher Briana Hassett enters the games versus the Wildcats on the verge of making history, needing just three strikeouts to establish a new single-season school record in the category. A right-hander from Eagan, Minn., Hassett leads NCAA Division I softball with 309 Ks in 211 1/3 innings this year, and is looking to move past the record of 311, set by current Gophers pitching coach Piper Marten during 2003.
Hassett’s total currently ranks 11th in Big Ten history, but she could leapfrog the following players in the next few games: Piper Marten, Minnesota (311 in 2003); Lisa Birocci, Iowa (313 in 2004); Lorilyn Wilson, Michigan (317 in 2007); and Marissa Young, Michigan (319 in 2000).
Minnesota trails 44-39 in the all-time series with the Wildcats. The Gophers own a mark of 33-40 in regular season contests, but hold a slim 6-5 lead in non-conference or tournament games between the schools.
A TOUGH STRETCH
The games versus Northwestern wrap up a brief four-game homestand for the Gophers, and are the middle games in a stretch of six-straight contests against nationally-ranked opponents. After the games with the Wildcats, Minnesota heads to Ann Arbor this weekend for a pair of contests with eighth-ranked Michigan.
Wednesday's twinbill versus Northwestern will be televised live on BTN, with Marney Gellner calling the play-by-play, while ex-Gopher women's basketball standout Leslie Hill and former Northwestern pitcher Eileen Canney will add color commentary.
The #6 Wildcats are 22-7 overall and are the lone undefeated team in the Big Ten (8-0) after sweeping their most recent conference series with Indiana on Saturday. NU won the first game, 3-1, then posted a convincing 8-0 win in five innings in the nightcap.
Like the Gophers, the Wildcats rely primarily on the arm of one pitcher. Junior right-hander Lauren Delaney has started 26 of Northwestern’s 29 games and sports a 21-6 record to go with a 2.04 ERA. Delaney ranks second to Hassett with 221 strikeouts and 23 complete games this season.
Offensively, Northwestern is stacked, leading the Big Ten with 51 home runs. Senior shortstop Tammy Williams is batting .495 (46-for-93) with 33 runs scored, 25 RBI, 10 home runs, and nine doubles. Freshman Adrienne Monka is tied for the team lead with 10 home runs and is batting .338 (25-for-74), while junior second baseman Nicole Pauly and senior catcher Erin Dyer each have nine round-trippers.
Pauly is this week’s Big Ten Player of the Week after batting .875 (7-for-8) with seven runs scored, six RBI, three home runs, and a double in sweeps of Michigan State and Indiana last week.
BARNES’ HITTING STREAK AT 10 GAMES
Sophomore first baseman Malisa Barnes had two of the Gophers’ three hits on Saturday against Ohio State, stretching her career-best hitting streak to 10 games.
The Phoenix, Ariz., native was 2-for-4 against the Buckeyes, collecting Minnesota’s lone hit in the first game, and going 1-for-3 in game two.
During her streak, she is batting .485 (16-for-33) with 10 RBI, eight runs scored, three home runs, and a double, while striking out just three times.
For the season, Barnes is batting .336 (44-for-131), with team-leading totals for runs scored (24), hits (44), home runs (5), runs batted in (23), on base percentage (.408), and slugging percentage (.489), all while maintaining a .982 fielding percentage.
In Big Ten play, Barnes is batting .556 (10-for-18), with five runs scored, four RBI, two home runs, an .889 slugging percentage, and a .619 on base percentage.
HASSETT LEADS NATION IN STRIKEOUTS
Senior pitcher Briana Hassett continues to lead NCAA Division I softball in strikeouts, according to stats released by the NCAA on Tuesday.
Through games of April 5, Hassett has struck out a career-high 309 batters, well ahead of Fresno State’s Morgan Melloh, who ranks second with 286 strikeouts. The remainder of the Top 10 includes Danielle Lawrie, Washington (267); Whitney Canion, Baylor (264); Ashlyn Williams, Troy (257); Danielle Spaulding, North Carolina (235); Lauren Delaney, Northwestern (221); Missy Penna, Stanford (221); Brittany Weil, Iowa (211); Stacey Nelson, Florida (202); and Kylie Reynolds, Kent State (202). Michigan's Nikki Nemitz is 12th on the list with 201 strikeouts.
Senior third baseman Colleen Conway, who led Minnesota with a .331 average in 2008 and has started every game of her Golden Gopher career, is second on the team with a .284 (40-for-141) batting average. Conway also has scored 21 runs and driven in seven runs, while hitting four doubles, two triples, and stealing eight bases in 10 attempts.
Not surprisingly, senior catcher Shannon Stemper leads the Big Ten with 367 putouts, which is 54 more than the runner-up in the category. As a team, the Gophers rank second in the Big Ten with 348 Ks, to account for the vast majority of Stemper’s total.
Senior third baseman Colleen Conway also leads the Big Ten in a defensive category, and by a wide margin. Conway has recorded 90 assists from the hot corner, which is 22 more the the player ranked second in the category.
In addition to her 347 putouts, Stemper has 10 assists and only two errors behind the plate, which adds up to an impressive .995 fielding percentage. More impressively, Stemper has recorded 1,111 putouts, 46 assists, and just five errors during her career, for a .996 percentage in 151 games behind the plate.
Conway has just six errors at one of the toughest positions to field, especially in softball, for a .952 percentage in the field.
MORE ABOUT HASSETT
After recording the third-highest single-season strikeout total in school history last year with 276 Ks, senior right-handed pitcher Briana Hassett has already exceeded that mark in 2009.
In 37 appearances totaling 211 1/3 innings, Hassett has struck out an eye-popping 309 batters. An impressive 48.7 percent of the outs Hassett has been responsible for this season have come via the strikeout, and she currently averages 10.24 Ks per seven-inning game.
In Big Ten games, the senior standout is 3-3 with a 1.20 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 41.0 IP. She has limited opponents to just eight runs (seven earned) in Minnesota’s six conference games this season.
Hassett also has 26 complete games in 33 starts this year, and has notched complete game shutouts 12 times. She ranks among the Big Ten Conference’s leaders in the following pitching categories (through games of April 4): Strikeouts (309, 1st); Strikeouts Looking (80, 1st); Innings Pitched (211.1, 1st); Appearances (37, 1st); Games Started (33, 1st); Wins (19, 2nd); Opponent BA (.163, 3rd); ERA (1.72, 9th).
KEEPING AN EYE ON THE CHARTS
Hassett is on pace to shatter Minnesota’s single-season record for strikeouts. With 309 Ks, and 14 regular season games remaining, Hassett needs just three strikeouts to break current Gopher assistant coach Piper Marten’s school-record total of 311. Hassett also needs just three more shutouts this season to break Vicki Swanson’s mark of 14, which Swanson set during the 1978 season.
In addition, Hassett is moving up several of Minnesota’s career pitching charts, currently ranking second for strikeouts (857) and shutouts (29), third for complete games (75), and fourth for wins (57) and innings pitched (681.1).