Indiana softball extended its win streak to 15 this weekend after sweeping the No. 22 Maryland Terrapins to kick off Big Ten play, with Sarah Stone headlining the weekend.
The Terrapins are an impressive team with an even more impressive pitching staff. The 6-foot-1 Courtney Wyche is one of the best pitchers in the Big Ten who boasts 89 strikeouts on the year already. Along with Trinity Schlotterbeck, who the team saw for a short period of time on day two, and Keira Bucher, whose 43-mph pitch stunned the Hoosiers. Maryland also has Jaeda McFarland, one of the players on last year’s Big Ten All-Team and a huge threat at the plate.
Despite all of this and Maryland being on a hot streak, just beating Texas Tech, Indiana was less than fazed.
After a few weather delays, Indiana finally got started on Saturday afternoon. Actually, the game would not really start for a few more hours. With such dominant defense on both sides and every season of weather, not a single run would score until the sixth inning. No one could take the offensive momentum.
Finally a Terp home run to left put the first run on the board. Throughout the bottom of the sixth Indiana could not find an answer, leaving two runners on base.
Everyone was left wondering whether this would be the end of the Hoosiers’ 12-game win streak. The answer would be no.
After a quick three up, three down for Brianna Copeland at the top of the seventh, Indiana would have its last chance of the day. After a couple free passes, bases were loaded. Kinsey Mitchell was hit by pitch, advancing runners and giving Indiana its first run of the day. Bases were still loaded, two outs, tied game, and Sarah Stone up to bat.
“It’s a great day to be a Hoosier,” Stone told head coach Shonda Stanton as she went up to the plate.
That it was. Stone effortlessly sent the ball into right for the walk-off win, Hoosiers win 2-1.
The rest of the series would have Hoosier fans on the edge of their seats as well, but for different reasons.
Indiana swiftly took the offensive momentum in game two, scoring six runs in the bottom of the first. Credit for the first three runs are due to none other than the previous day’s hero, Stone, who sent a home run deep into center. Two RBI singles and a sac fly would tack on three more for Indiana to round out the inning.
The bottom of the second was the freshman’s time to shine. Taryn Kern, the Big Ten’s Co-Freshman and Player of the Week, sent the message to the Terrapins that they had not lost momentum with the first-inning home run, as she hit a home run to start off the second inning.
“It’s exciting to make everyone proud, I’m excited to be a Hoosier,” Kern said after the game.
A few minutes later Avery Parker would follow suit, posting a two-RBI home run increasing the lead to nine.
Indiana fans were ready to call it a game there, assuming the game would be over in the fifth due to the run rule, but Maryland would cut Indiana’s lead down to six after scoring three runs in the top of the third, leaving the Hoosiers not as hopeful. Indiana would answer by putting up five more runs on the board.
The game was assumed to be over when Maryland went to the plate in the top of the fifth, but the Terps would not go quietly, scoring four runs, extending the game by a single run.
Fears that Maryland would take the momentum and come back swept the crowd, but not the dugout. Copeland’s RBI single would seal the game. Indiana won 15-7.
There was no time for celebration because the last game of the series would take place in 30 minutes.
This is an Indiana team that has not had the most perfect reputation. They finished 10th in the Big Ten last year, going 10-13 in conference play. The Hoosiers saw multiple ranked teams in Clearwater early in the season but were fruitless. But right now, this is a team that is toward the top of the Big Ten with its offense starting conference play. This is a team with momentum, a 14-game win streak going into the Sunday finale. It would mean so much for this historic team to start conference play 3-0, especially against a ranked, reputable opponent. Everyone knew that.
A nice hit from Cora Bassett would get her on base to start the game for the Hoosiers. Stone would then remind Maryland who they were messing with, sending one over the fence to bring herself and Bassett home to start the game.
Momentum was in favor of pitcher Heather Johnson, until she was hit by a base hit. Copeland moved into the mound from third, moving Benson to third in a quick change of events. One pitch, one hit to third, and a big error would put three runs on the board for Maryland. Immediately after, Johnson reassumed her position on the mound.
Indiana came back with four runs in the bottom of the third and another three in the fourth thanks to Bassett, Minnick, and again, Stone. Despite a six-run lead, no Hoosiers felt comfort.
This game would not be a run rule. Maryland put up its final run in the top of the sixth, while Indiana answered with two more in the bottom. A quick three up and down would end the game, and bring relief and happiness to Indiana with a 11-4 win.
Stanton has continuously stressed the role of the game plan.
“It’s being the hunter, not the hunted,” Stanton said. “That’s what we were this weekend, the hunter. You have a game plan whether that’s splitting the plate in half or whether it’s getting on the plate and toeing the line, whether it’s opening up a little bit. We had a game plan for each pitcher.”
But warns her team they will not always have that amount of days to prepare.
Indiana is now on a 15-game win streak, which Stanton says does not count unless it’s Big Ten games. Regardless, this is great momentum and confidence for the hardworking team going into the rest of the season.
The team faces two more Big Ten opponents this week, a double header at Purdue on Wednesday and a home series against Ohio State this weekend. But before they get Big Ten crazy, they will see Butler at home on Tuesday, looking to extend the streak to 16.