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Indiana outfielder Aaliyah Andrews runs the bases during Indiana's win over Ohio State on April 2. (HN photo/Marley Reback)
Indiana outfielder Aaliyah Andrews runs the bases during Indiana's win over Ohio State on April 2. (HN photo/Marley Reback)

Indiana splits midweek games, looks ahead to crucial weekend series against Nebraska

The Hoosier offense sputtered in a loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday

Indiana softball managed to get back on its feet on Tuesday against Louisville, defeating the Cardinals 10-5. Indiana was swiftly knocked back down after traveling to Notre Dame on Wednesday and being handed a 9-1 loss. 

On Tuesday, Indiana looked like its usual self, comfortable at the plate and making smart choices while rounding the bases. Sarah Stone was the first to earn a few RBIs and to put some runs on the board with a two-run triple in the bottom of the first inning. Bri Copeland followed suit, bringing in Stone to give the Hoosiers an early 3-0 advantage. 

A Louisville home run in the top of the second cut the lead to two, but Indiana’s offense was not done. Taylor Minnick would tack on an RBI single for Indiana and Stone showed off once again, bringing in two more on a single, putting Indiana up 6-1. 

The game started to take a turn when Indiana’s offense slowed down in the third inning. They allowed no scores in the third but could not make anything of themselves either. Then in the top of the fourth, a whole new Cardinals team came out, scoring three runs to make it a 6-4 game and forcing multiple pitching changes for Indiana. At this moment everyone realized the rest of the game would not be such a cake walk as the first half was. 

“I felt like we were the losing team the way we were playing. We looked stressed and a little tight and we let them back in with some of the mistakes, that lack of clean defense,” head coach Shonda Stanton said. “That is going to be the difference for us the rest of the way.”

In the bottom of the fourth Indiana saw some action from its leading hitter Taryn Kern — batting .437, has 46 hits, leading the NCAA in home runs with 17, and has 50 RBIs — who had been having a relatively quiet game. One of her RBIs came from a single in the bottom of the fourth and Stone snuck in one more RBI off a groundout to make for a 8-4 game.

If one was thinking that it sounds like this Indiana team owns quite a few RBIs, they would be correct. On theme with the rest of the record-breaking season, the Hoosiers broke another program record, bringing in 282 runners on the year. The previous record was 278 set in 1994. 

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Freshman Taryn Kern puts a ball in play during Indiana softball’s loss to Wisconsin on March 5. (HN photo/Jaren Himelick)

Louisville put up another score in the top of the fifth, but no more runs accumulated for the Cardinals. Brooke Benson would add another bit of cushion bringing in Avery Parker. Minnick then had a barely-fair ball bring in Kern. 

Copeland contributed two strikeouts in the top of the seventh, owning two of the three outs in the quick three up, three down inning to make the final score 10-5. Those two strikeouts are part of the 103 strikeouts she has on the season, as she reached over 100 strikeouts in Tuesday’s game. Copeland improved her record to 15-0 in the circle.

A win was exactly what Indiana needed after taking not one, but two losses in Minnesota which ultimately ended the Hoosiers’ 23-game win streak. A win Tuesday and a win Wednesday would put Indiana in the best position mentally to face one of the better Big Ten teams, Nebraska, who is coming in at No. 40 on RPI. 

“It’s nice to come off those losses and show up and get the job done,” Stanton said. 

Unfortunately for Stanton and her team, the game on Wednesday slipped through the Hoosiers’ fingers. 

Indiana was the first on the board thanks to Kinsey Mitchell bringing home Copeland in the top of the second for Indiana’s first and only run of the day. Copeland started off strong in the circle, going one-two-three in the bottom of the second. However, it would not take long for the Fighting Irish to find their groove.

Their first two runs came in the third to make the game 2-1. Indiana had relinquished the momentum. Three more runs came in both the fourth and the fifth leaving the Hoosiers speechless, recording only three hits on the game. The high-powered hitting team met its match. Notre Dame sealed the game with one more run in the sixth to put the game away enacting the run rule, 9-1. 

This game also put to bed Copeland’s undefeated run giving her a loss and making her 15-1 on the season. 

Nebraska, 27-13 and 7-4 in conference, is coming off a weekend series against Maryland, where the Cornhuskers went 2-1. Nebraska is a team similar to Indiana in that it relies on its high-powered offense and is second in the Big Ten only to Indiana. One of the Huskers’ best hitters, Katelyn Caneda, is a freshman from California — so is one of Indiana’s best hitters, Kern. Indiana and Nebraska have similar pitchers as well, but the difference could come in the fielding. Nebraska ranks at the top of the Big Ten in fielding while Indiana falls towards the end of that list, topping the Big Ten in errors. 

“I want to see that team that when somebody punches, they punch right back,” Stanton said. “That’s what we saw over that 23-game win streak. That’s what we’ve seen across the course of the season. But man, I wanna bounce back and take this series at home this weekend.”

Winning the series will be essential for Indiana to not only regain momentum throughout the end of the regular season, but to remain a Big Ten title contender and to make an argument for a spot in the NCAA tournament. The first game takes place at 6 p.m. Friday at Andy Mohr Field.

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