April 23, 2009
By Larry Watts
With graduation less than two months away, Minnesota's Briana Hassett isn't in a rush to put her business degree to use. Not at all anxious to join the 9-to-5 club, especially in this economy, the Golden Gophers' pitching ace is planning on making a quick exit from the Twin Cities for the Netherlands.
Hassett and batterymate Shannon Stemper, who is also a senior, plan on extending their softball careers a few more months by playing for a club team in the Netherlands.
"I always wanted to study abroad during school, but you can't really do that with the time commitment to softball," Hassett says. "I had heard of other players doing this, so I wanted to check it out and find a good team. Every team has one or two Americans and our shortstop (senior Colleen Conway) is going to be playing in Switzerland.
"This will be a great chance to get out and experience Europe and have some fun during the summer before I have to go into the work force. I'm in no rush (to work) and I think I'll take my time, if I can."
According to Hassett, the teams will be more than a month into their schedule by the time she arrives. There will be a break during the month of July, when she plans on doing some extensive traveling, before the season resumes for two more months.
"I really want to see the Greek Islands," she says. "I saw the movie 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2' and the scenery was just amazing and I knew I had to go there."
For now, the 5-foot-10 right-hander from Eagan, Minn. is currentlyapplying the finishing touches to one of the best pitching seasons inGolden Gopher history. Heading into Wednesday's doubleheader withWisconsin, she had already broke the school record held by pitchingcoach Piper Marten, which currently stands at 355. That mark is alsoseventh in Big Ten history and she should crack the top five beforethe end of the season.
Hassett has seen her strikeout totals rise dramatically in the past two seasons, which coincidently is when Marten returned to Minnesota as the pitching coach.
"Piper's been a great influence on me," she says. "She's been through this before and that really is a big help. She is still very competitive and keeps me on track, telling me to keep attacking the batters."
After only recording 272 strikeouts in her first two seasons, Hassett now has 933 in her career. However, there is little likelihood Marten's career record of 1,122 is jeopardy.
"I feel like that career record is pretty untouchable," says Hassett, who is 21-18 this year with 31 complete games, 13 shutouts and an earned run average of 1.89. "I'm happy to just have the single-season mark."
An All-American and two-time all-state selection out of Eastview High School, Hassett said she was in for a rude awakening when she arrived at Minnesota.
"I had to re-work all my pitches when I came here," she says. "I came in here thinking I had five pitches. But basically what I learned was all five pitches were just different degrees of fastballs. My curveball was nothing more than an outside fastball, which teams like Michigan and Northwestern quickly proved to me.
"I didn't win a single Big Ten game my freshman year. It was quite a rough season and not a good subject to talk about. But I saw the light and I knew I had to change stuff."
Now Hassett, who began playing softball in fourth grade, is confident with all five of her pitches -- rise, curve, screw ball, drop and changeup. The curve and screwball are her two favorite pitches.
"I love to break it out or jam it in," she says.
Hassett, who was 21-8 as a junior, doesn't mind carrying the bulk or the workload for the pitching staff.
"I'd rather have the ball in my hands and have some control over the game," she says. "I get too antsy if I'm on the bench. It's a weird feeling."
While she is putting off joining the working class, Hassett did receive some valuable training last summer while working an internship in the marketing department at Under Armour's company headquarters in Baltimore.
"I just had a blast and I hope to land a job with them when I return," she says. "They have a small office in Denver, where I would love to work, and the company is growing pretty fast."
Within her first week in Baltimore, she got to eat crab for the first time.
"That was a real experience, cracking those crabs!" she says with a laugh. "I don't like all that cracking, but crab cakes are now one of my favorites. I don't need to have any of that goop on them."
Working at Under Armour also helped Hassett make quite a few additions to her wardrobe.
"I've now got outfits from sports I don't even play," she says. "I did get a couple of maroon and gold polos, but I don't want to be wearing those colors for the rest of my life. I want to be able to alter my wardrobe when I graduate.
"I went more for the pinks and blues. No purple though, I don't like that color. Maybe it's just a Northwestern thing. Tell the people at Northwestern I'm only kidding."
Before leaving Minnesota, there is one thing she would like to do. But every time she gets close to picking up a bat in practice, she says someone yells at her.
"I keep telling them I want to get one at-bat this season," she says. "I'll have to bat this summer in the Netherlands, so I need some practice so I don't embarrass myself too much."
Once she returns at the end of the summer, Hassett figures the next softball she plays will be in a recreation league.
"I'll be the one at the end of the bench working on my sun tan," she says.