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Indiana Softball Pitching Falls Apart, Hoosiers Drop Big Ten Semifinal

 

Indiana Starting pitcher Tara Trainer and catcher Bella Norton get together in the circle during the second inning of the Hoosiers Big Ten Semifinal game vs Minnesota. The Hoosiers fell to the Gophers 9-4.

Initially, it seemed as if yet another delay would help the Hoosiers’ cause.

Down 3-0 to No. 2 Minnesota in the fifth inning, No. 3 Indiana softball plated four runs in the fifth inning to take the lead, following the third weather delay of the weekend at the Big Ten tournament in Madison, Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, Hoosier pitcher Tara Trainer was roughed up in her final two innings of work in the circle as Indiana fell to Minnesota 9-4 in Saturday’s Big Ten semifinal matchup.

“I’m really proud, we battled back in and took the lead 4-3,” IU coach Shonda Stanton said. “Minnesota just kept taking their hacks and we didn’t make enough plays defensively. That’s part of the game, they were the better team today.”

Trainer started the semifinal as expected, but couldn’t get through two innings for Indiana, and allowed Minnesota to jump out to an early 2-0 lead on a two-RBI single in the second inning.

It was an uncharacteristic start for the junior ace, who had been much more reliable for Indiana down the stretch in the last five games, with a 2.51 ERA and averaging four strikeouts per start.

Primarily relieved by sophomore Emily Goodin (one earned run, two hits, one strikeout in 2.2 innings pitched), Trainer re-entered the game in the fifth with the lead and was set to finish the job.

She continued to be wild, issuing five walks on the day, unable to lock down and find her spot in the strike zone at any point against the Gophers.

Indiana’s offense entered the 5th inning 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, but battled all day and kept themselves close with Minnesota.

Taylor Uden, Maddie Westmoreland, and Katie Lacefield all contributed to a four-run fifth inning in order to keep pace with perhaps the hottest team in the Big Ten. Even headed to the 6th trailing by a single run, it looked as if Indiana would have another chance to get back in front, but Minnesota remained relentless, capitalizing on Trainer’s mistakes over the plate.

It wasn’t just a select few but the entire Gophers lineup that found ways to pitch in. In the end, the Gophers found a way to score five unanswered runs, backed by a solid closing effort in the circle from Sydney Smith.

Trainer finished the day allowing eight runs on eight hits and issued just one strikeout in her 3.1 innings of work.

Where does Indiana go from here?

One win short of the program’s first-ever appearance in a conference championship, it’s still clear to see that this 2018 team is capable of competing among the best in the postseason.

Take the way the Hoosiers have handled the two best pitchers in the Big Ten, Michigan’s Meghan Beaubien and Minnesota’s Amber Fiser, as a prime example of such. If anything, the competition this weekend has proven that any team can win the Big Ten championship, with top seed Michigan going out early to No. 8 Michigan State and No. 5 Ohio State losing to No. 12 Iowa.

“This group has completely changed the face of Indiana Softball in a matter of really a month and a half,” Stanton said. “Not only were we so competitive in the Big Ten, but this group believed on the inside that we could come away with a title.”

Because of Indiana’s sub-.500 record and high RPI at the end of its postseason run, the Hoosiers could not be selected for an NCAA tournament berth. Michigan, Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the eventual Big Ten tournament champion, will all represent the conference in this year’s NCAA regionals.

 

Connor Hines

I am a freshman from San Diego, California majoring in Media. Outside of my work with The Hoosier Network, I broadcast games for WIUX student radio and serve as beat reporter for Indiana Softball. Email me at cohines@umail.iu.edu and follow me on Twitter @connorhines17.

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