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Weekend Notebook: Indiana Softball fights but still falls short in Ann Arbor

Head Coach Shonda Stanton looks on during practice inside Mellencamp Pavilion (Kurt Spitler/HN).

It was there for the taking.

Indiana’s Emily Goodin stared in for a 3-2 pitch with two outs and two runners on, with her team hanging onto a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh at Michigan.

Then, Mackenzie Nemitz struck. Michigan’s senior designated player banged the game’s climax pitch into the right center gap plating two runs to walk it off and sweep Indiana with a 7-6 victory.

The Hoosiers were one pitch away from completing a compelling road win over one of college softball’s finest programs. Indiana dropped to 28-13 on the season and 3-6 in Big Ten play. The loss was a heartbreaker, marking the second time the club has been swept on the road this season in conference.

Game three: a turning point

Despite being shutdown by All-American Meghan Beaubien and freshman right hander Alex Storako in games one and two, the Hoosiers adjusted and positioned themselves to finish the weekend on a strong note. Indiana’s six runs scored on Sunday were the most allowed by Michigan’s staff since March 9th.

“This place was packed and this is what college athletics and college softball should be about – two very good ball clubs going at it,” Head Coach Shonda Stanton said postgame. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t do enough and they did.”

Michigan represents everything that Indiana is currently trying to build towards: Big Ten championships galore, 12 Women’s College World Series appearances, a national championship, and 2,400-plus fans bearing down to create an electric atmosphere every weekend.

The Hoosiers were pitted against it all, and the lessons taken away from the sting of a walk-off loss should prove crucial in the makeup of the rest of the season.

Radcliffe continues to be the spark

Grayson Radcliffe was a standout on Sunday. The sophomore shortstop went three-for-four with a two-run home run, and the key base hit that brought home three in the fourth inning to give Indiana the lead.

“When you look at her she’s a culture kid,” Stanton said. “She’s a locker room kid, she’s a competitor.”

Radcliffe’s versatility, two-strike approach, and sheer will to win inspired Indiana to Sunday’s offensive outburst against two all-American quality arms. Credit Shonda Stanton and the coaching staff for moving their shortstop to the leadoff spot when the top of the lineup was searching for answers.

Postseason outlook

Indiana checks in at No. 39 in the latest NCAA softball RPI rankings through games played on April 7th. That is down one spot from 38th last weekend. The program hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2011 and will need to stay tight down the stretch in order to find an at large bid.

Ironically, three wins against Michigan State (160th in RPI rankings) did more damage to Indiana’s standing compared to three losses at Michigan (15th). Take the flawed formula for what it’s worth, but its still the key to the city for college softball’s postseason. With that being said, here’s a look at Indiana’s remaining schedule with opponent RPI ranking in parentheses:

  • 4/10 doubleheader vs. Purdue (81)
  • 4/12-4/14 vs. Maryland (88)
  • 4/19-4/21 at Wisconsin (35)
  • 4/26-4/28 vs. Rutgers (99)
  • 5/3-5/5 at Penn State (133)

A soft draw of bottom half Big Ten opponents is beyond Indiana’s control, which means the margin for error is slim in order to qualify into the field of 64.

The magic number? 12.

12 wins gets Indiana to a 40-15 record through the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament at Andy Mohr Field – with quality wins over Georgia (34th in RPI rankings), at LSU (4th), and South Florida (28th) the Hoosiers should give the committee plenty to to look at.

The road series at Wisconsin looks like the big fish to fry – two out of three wins in Madison might do the trick.

Quick notes

Defense has become a glare for IU in losses this season

10 of Indiana’s 13 defeats have included at least one error. The first two games against Michigan followed script, and there could’ve been more in Sunday’s heartbreaker — an underlying difference in the game.

Michigan’s two runs in the first came off of 50-50 plays in the outfield. Senior slugger Alex Sobczak drove a fly ball to straightaway center – Taylor Lambert misplayed it, and the ball nicked the edge of her glove’s webbing and fell to the track producing the game’s opening run.

One play later, Gabbi Jenkins sold out for a shallow fly ball in right field, missing it on a dive and Nemitz added a second run on what was eventually scored a triple. Those little plays added up and proved costly by the series end.

Tough pitching in the Big Ten is still a challenge

Indiana is 8-10 this season against teams with a collective ERA that ranks in the top 50 nationally. The Hoosiers have lost their last eight in a row against such teams, including an 0-7 mark against Big Ten staffs in the top 25 for national ERA. Northwestern, Ohio State, and now Michigan have boxed in the Hoosier attack.

Maddie Westmoreland is still on a tear

She picked up her team in game two of the series, finishing with the only two Hoosier hits of the ball game, both solo home runs off Meghan Beaubien. The sophomore power hitter has reached base in 12 straight games and is 12 for her last 27 (.444) with three home runs, three doubles, a triple, and six RBI. 

Goodin gets the ball

Emily Goodin pitched with passion and was valiant across five total innings in Sunday’s defeat. The right hander bounced back after giving up two runs in the opening frame and nearly shut the door for a victory.

The junior also got the call to start game one, tossing four innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits. Goodin has earned her opportunities – expect to see more of her complimenting Tara Trainer in Indiana’s rotation.

Up Next

Indiana returns home to Bloomington for a five-game home stand. The Hoosiers host rival Purdue on Wednesday for a doubleheader and Maryland for a three-game series over the weekend.

 

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