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Minnick shines as Indiana softball sweeps Rutgers, builds momentum heading into rivalry games against Purdue

The Indiana softball team swept the Rutgers Scarlet Knights this past weekend in its first true Big Ten series at home to remain perfect at Bart Kaufman Field. 

Indiana came into the weekend with a strong 19-10 record with intentions to climb the ranks of the Big Ten standings, but a team starving for more conference wins — Rutgers, who stood at 23-15 — wanted to spoil the Hoosiers’ plans. The Scarlet Knights came into Bloomington fresh off of being swept in a three-game series by the top team in the Big Ten, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. 

In the first game of the series Indiana jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first two innings thanks to an Aaliyah Andrews score on a passed ball and a solo home run for Taylor Minnick. Minnick continued her hot streak at the plate from the Hoosiers’ previous series against Wisconsin, and it wasn’t her last word in the series by any stretch. 

It was a sign of things to come for Minnick. For the third time in a row and the fourth time this season, the Hoosiers added another Big Ten Freshman of the week award to the list, but instead of Brianna Copeland (who has won three), it was Minnick who shined brighter than any other newcomer in the conference. Minnick batted .667 during the weekend, racking up four hits, five runs, a home run and five walks.

Rutgers came back punching after IU’s hot start in the first game, however, scoring four runs of their own in the fourth and fifth thanks to some errors from the Hoosier infield. 

The Hoosiers once again worked their magic in the last few innings of the game to come back with help from a mix of upperclassmen and a newcomer who is playing like someone who has been there for years. 

Senior Brittany Ford had an RBI single to bring the game within a run for the Hoosiers and fifth-year senior Grayson Radcliffe had a huge moment in her return from injury with an RBI double that gave Indiana the lead back in the bottom of the fifth. Copeland, the now three-time Big Ten Freshman of the week, also had an RBI single in the sixth to add an insurance run that closed the door on Rutgers in the first game of the series. 

Head coach Shonda Stanton praised her team’s ability to continually fight back after getting down early on in games. 

“We just continue to show resiliency,” Stanton said. “I’m proud of this group and how we continue to fight.” 

Game two started differently than usual for Indiana as Ford carried over her successes from late in the first game on to the first inning of the second with an RBI double to give the Hoosiers an early lead for a change. 

This didn’t last long however as Rutgers put up a two-spot in the top of the second thanks to some stellar base running from Gabrielle Callway and Payton Lincavage who both scored after a steal from each earlier in the inning. 

Once again, however, Indian showed grit and immediately responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth with two freshmen (Copeland and Minnick) delivering run-scoring extra-base hits. 

After Rutgers scored two in the top of the sixth, Indiana held the Scarlet Knights off in the top of the seventh to secure a 5-4 victory on Saturday.

“That’s a scrappy team … they’ve got some athletes that can swing it and you saw that,” Stanton said of Rutgers.

Game three was a prime opportunity for Indiana to get its first true series sweep of the season, and once again IU was first out of the gate. 

To no one's surprise, Minnick got the Hoosiers in the scoring column with an RBI double that scored Cora Bassett. After tying the game in the second, Rutgers once again jumped in front early with a two-run shot from Callaway who continued to swing a hot bat during the series. 

After this, however, the Indiana team who I think could be dubbed the “comeback kids” rallied for a total of six runs through the bottom of the fourth inning. 

It all got started with a Bassett home run and was capped off with yet another run from Minnick.

This didn’t discourage the Scarlet Knights though who were determined to come out of the weekend with a win. They put up three runs in the top of the sixth with another home run from Callaway, this one a two run shot, and a solo inside the parker from Taylor Fawcett. 

The Hoosiers thwarted this comeback effort in the bottom of the sixth when they put up three more runs to put the game away.

Sophomore shortstop Brooke Benson gave her thoughts on the weekend after the conclusion of game three. 

“We’ve been waiting for a sweep… our winning streak starts here,” Benson said.

The Hoosiers jumped to fifth overall in the conference after gaining three more wins, and they’ll have a chance this week to get more when Purdue comes to Bloomington on Wednesday for a doubleheader. The first game against the Boilermakers is on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and the second game will happen a half-hour after its conclusion. 

Stanton said the momentum from this sweep could play well in the upcoming rivalry game. 

“It’s always more fun coming off of a win,” said Stanton. “I would much rather come off of a sweep on a weekend going into rivalry week.”

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