WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Hoosiers won both games in Wednesday’s double header against Purdue, 8-5 and 5-3, but it was not a battle easily won.
This week is a change of pace for No. 24 Indiana — which is ranked for the first time since 2018 — at least compared to last week. Last week IU had all week to prepare for Maryland, one of the best teams in the Big Ten, and it showed. The Hoosiers swept then-No. 22 Maryland. However, just one day after the Maryland double header on Sunday, Indiana hosted Butler in Bloomington and took the bus to West Lafayette the next day to play another double header, and again, it showed.
In the first game, Purdue got up early with a two-run double immediately claiming the momentum of the game. In the second inning a Brooke Benson sac fly bringing home Avery Parker would cut Purdue’s lead in half but it looked rather puny next to the three runs Purdue would put up in the third inning.
Behind 5-1 was not a good look for the Hoosiers, who were two wins from tying the program record for longest win streak, up against Purdue who is 15-16, 0-3 in conference play.
The firestarter for the Hoosiers would be Brianna Copeland. Copeland set the tone for the fourth inning with a solo leadoff home run, igniting the fight in Indiana. The second her bat hit the ball, it was known Indiana would not lose this game.
Benson would bring home Parker once again, and Cora Bassett would return the favor for her.
Enter Taryn Kern.
Kern sent one over the fence for two RBIs. So far in this game, Kern had already shown tremendous hustle and effort on defense, displayed in her diving catch down the dugout stairs, and now she was showing off on offense to give Indiana the lead. Indiana would not score again until the seventh inning when Kern would get her 14th home run this season.
To add a little cushion to the now 7-5 score, Copeland would get an RBI double to bring home Elle Smith, giving the final score of 8-5.
“We kinda came out a little sluggish,” Indiana head coach Shonda Stanton said. “Super proud of our group to grind it out. The sticks were out in game one and in game two our baserunning did some good things for us and we clutched up when we needed to.”
Indiana would get the first run in the second game off of a bases-loaded hit by pitch.
Purdue would answer. A sac fly would tie the game, and a two-run home run to center field would put Indiana back into the pit of worry, worrying if the team would come one game short of tying the program record.
Copeland would once again be the spark to the Hoosier offense in a moment of déja vu. In the top of the fifth Copeland hit another solo leadoff home run to put some hope into Indiana.
The Hoosiers counted on Kern — they had been since the beginning of the game — but Purdue made the decision to intentionally walk the freshman, even if it meant it would leave bases loaded.
While bases were loaded many times for Indiana, the Hoosiers could not quite break the game open. Benson would score off of a fielder’s choice and Sarah Stone would have a ground-out, bringing home Bassett.
Everyone held their breath for the bottom of the sixth, but freshman pitcher Sophie Kleiman took the opportunity to shine. Kleiman had not seen too much time on the field this year, but she handled the high-stakes situation as most of the younger players on this team does, with composure and efficiency.
Parker hit her seventh home run of her career in the top of the seventh to give Indiana just a bit more cushion.
It was a nice comfort to the Hoosiers to have, but would not be necessary as Kleiman allowed only one run in the seventh, earning the first win of her college career along with four strikeouts.
What did Stanton tell her team when they were clawing back?
“Belief precedes behavior,” Stanton said. “What do you believe here? I believe we can win 15-4. I believe we can come back any amount. I believe that we can string hits together. I believe we are the best hitting team in the Big Ten. We weren’t playing like we believed some of those things.”
The relief from Team 50 swept through the dugout when Bassett caught the final out on a flyout to right. Indiana would maintain its winning streak, now at 18, as well as sweeping Purdue. It matches the longest winning streak in program history, tying a record set in 1983.
Indiana takes this momentum and confidence into a series against Ohio State, another team at the top of the Big Ten, this weekend in Bloomington.
“I’m super excited to take the momentum into Ohio State,” Kern said. “(The opportunity) to get another sweep at home in front of our fans, I think is such a cool experience at Andy Mohr.”