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Weekend Notebook: Indiana softball bounces back with sweep of Michigan State

Annika Baez makes contact on Sunday against Michigan State (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics).

In more ways than one, it didn’t take long for Shonda Stanton’s group to turn things around. Whether it be the effort on the field itself — or adjusting to weather and preparing to get all three games played this past weekend at Andy Mohr Field — Indiana again found new ways to get the job done.

Following a four-game slide and a rough 0-3 start to conference play, the Hoosiers bounced back in the strongest way possible, sweeping Michigan State with potent offense in a three-game set.

Indiana swiftly took advantage of a struggling MSU pitching staff in Friday’s opener putting up 12 runs in the fourth inning. It would be plenty for the Hoosiers to go on and win the weekend opener, 13-8. Using it as the tone setter for the weekend, the icy conditions which postponed Saturday’s contest, setting up a Sunday doubleheader, proved to be no issue for Indiana’s production.

IU cruised to a 6-3 victory in game two, thanks to the strong pitching efforts of Emily Goodin. The barrage at the plate continued, as the weekend was capped off with a 15-2 win in five innings, moving Indiana to 28-10 on the year and an even .500 in the Big Ten standings.

Pitching excels, Trainer recovers

It’s no secret that the foundation of Indiana’s success is built in the circle. That fact has become even more clear over the past month, as the team as a whole tends to struggle whenever the pitching staff does. In the month of March, six of Indiana’s losses came when Tara Trainer gave up at least two runs, often many more.

At the same time, Indiana has been unable to score more than two runs in eight of the 10 total losses in 2019, being shut out four separate times. As Trainer goes, so does the team — but that all changed this weekend against the Spartans.

Though she surrendered a Michigan State grand slam to begin the weekend, Indiana’s ace found her rhythm from there. On Friday, Trainer finally received the run support that’s been for the majority of Indiana’s losses, and she recovered well Sunday, going four scoreless innings while striking out 10 and picking up the win. The senior now stands 19-5 on the year with a 1.75 ERA and 171 total strikeouts.

Emily Goodin was perhaps even more impressive. As the strongest arm out of the bullpen, the junior proved capable of doing even more, fanning six in a complete game win in game two of the series.

“It’s nice to just see her get back in action and have such a good start,” Stanton said. “We’re proud of how she spins the ball and how she attacks hitters. She’s doing a phenomenal job for us.”

Sunday marked just the second time all year Goodin was able to go the distance, as her performance clearly set the tone for Indiana at the plate all afternoon.

Hot hitting is contagious

When it rains, it pours. At least that’s what it feels like for Indiana’s offense as of late. For the second straight home weekend this season, the Hoosiers succeeded in reaching double figure scoring, getting help from nearly everyone in the lineup. Though the on-and-off production has been spotty in March, Indiana took big steps toward a more consistent approach at the plate against MSU.

Gabbi Jenkins (team-best .330 average) continues to excel near the top of the lineup, reaching base safely in each game this weekend, while scoring five runs and stealing two bases. Annika Baez (six home runs on the year) squared up the ball perhaps better than anyone else on the field, collecting four hits and three RBI.

Maddie Westmoreland (five hits, three runs scored) is seeing the ball better and better with each at-bat. Sarah Galovich, who initially didn’t play much in the non-conference season, has now received six straight starts at second base and continues to capitalize, finishing the weekend with five RBI, six hits, two stolen bases, and four runs scored. Still, that only scratches the surface.

“When you start mentioning names, you leave people out,” Stanton said. “We set the tone early and often and continued to extend leads. It gives our pitchers a chance to settle in.”

Above all, Taylor Lambert is the difference maker at the top of the lineup, and that’s huge moving forward in conference play. For a program that has searched hard for a player who can do a little bit of everything, Indiana is getting awfully close to that with its sophomore center fielder.

Her bases-clearing triple Friday set the tone for the remainder of the game, and she continued to excel, totaling seven hits, five RBI, five runs scored, and a stolen base by the end of Sunday.

“I think I just knew I needed to barrel up the ball,” Lambert said. “I’m just trying to make good contact.”

Back to .500

After getting out to its best start in program history, Indiana’s hot play was put in check with an 0-3 weekend in Columbus to open Big Ten action. The Hoosiers had opportunities to take advantage, and even led in game one, but couldn’t piece a full seven innings together.

The second conference series of the year against Michigan State was a huge step in the right direction, mostly from a consistency standpoint. In Coach Stanton’s words, Indiana didn’t take any pitches off this weekend against Michigan State, even with a healthy lead.

As her teams so often are, Indiana was the more aggressive competitor on the field, and it paid off. Above all, it points things in the right direction headed into what might be the toughest series of the year beginning this Friday in Ann Arbor.

“Michigan is Michigan. They know how to win,” Stanton said. “It just feels good coming off of Sunday to set the tone for the week.”

Connor Hines

I am a sophomore from San Diego, California studying in Indiana University's Media School. Beyond my work with The Hoosier Network, I'm a broadcaster for WIUX 99.1 FM, IU's student radio station, and BTN Student U. I previously served as beat reporter for Indiana Softball during my freshman year, and I look forward to continue to deliver fresh and innovative content with softball and much more during this year. Last summer, I interned with San Diego's Mighty 1090, the flagship AM sports radio station in my hometown. Tweet me your hot takes @ConnorHines17. Email: cohines@iu.edu

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