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Indiana players celebrate Taryn Kern's home run in a win over Ohio State on April 2. (HN photo/Marley Reback)
Indiana players celebrate Taryn Kern's home run in a win over Ohio State on April 2. (HN photo/Marley Reback)

Team 50: The improbable story of the 2023 Indiana softball team

The Hoosiers shattered program records en route to one of their most successful years in history

What does a successful season look like? Is it bringing home a championship, going further than a set goal, or even having an above .500 season? Perfection is near impossible and even more so in the sporting world, but for the 20 young women rostered on the 2022-23 Indiana softball team, success was seen throughout the whole season. 

The name Team 50 has a simple definition, yet a complicated meaning. This season marked No. 50 for the Indiana softball team dating back to its inaugural season in 1973. The meaning can be seen through what this team was able to accomplish. 

Jan. 25, 2023 was when the Big Ten Preseason poll was published and predicted Indiana to finish 10th in the conference. This is not the most outlandish prediction considering the season prior where the Hoosiers finished 10th with a 27-22 record (10-13 Big Ten). 

In the afternoon of Feb. 19, Indiana faced some early season woes at the ESPN Clearwater Invitational, suffering a five-game losing streak during which IU gave up 43 total runs. In that span, the Hoosiers saw the likes of two eventual NCAA Regional hosts (No. 5 Alabama and No. 11 Arkansas), as well as two eventual Super Regional teams, with Alabama and Louisiana advancing. 

From a positive lens, the Hoosiers saw former athletes from Indiana in attendance at some of the games in Clearwater, Florida that spent time reconnecting with the team and talking to the current roster. 

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Junior Cora Bassett prepares for a pitch in the field during Indiana's loss to Nebraska on April 14. (HN photo/Kallan Graybill)

“Team 50 is bigger than us, things will continue to change and adapt,” Indiana head coach Shonda Stanton said after the Clearwater Invitational.

A brief stint at home for the Hoosier Classic saw Indiana bring its record to 9-9 and hold a two-game win streak as the Hoosiers once again packed their bags and prepared to play 10 games between March 10-18 in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. 

Spoiler alert: Indiana would win all 10, extending its streak to 12-games as IU was now staring down the tunnel of Big Ten play beginning just a week later. 

On March 25, Team 50 began its first conference series of the season against then-No. 22 Maryland. First baseman and sophomore Sarah Stone’s walk-off single gave Indiana a narrow 2-1 victory. Indiana was able to get out the brooms, completing the three-game sweep by tallying 26 runs in the final two games. The Hoosiers now saw themselves holding a 15-game win streak. 

In 1983, Indiana set a record of 18 consecutive wins that was now within earshot of Team 50.

On March 29, Indiana had officially put together an 18-game win streak. The Hoosiers had won a midweek non conference game against Butler and then took down their rival the Purdue Boilermakers in a doubleheader in West Lafayette. 

On April 1, a 17-9 5-inning victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes that had been pushed back a day due to weather wrote this talented and young team into the record books. The Hoosiers did not stop at 19 and continued to be a formidable team until running into Minnesota on the road, which put an end to a 23-game and program-record win streak

Throughout the rest of April, Team 50 was faced with some challenges, losing four out of five after the Minnesota series with the lone win coming at home against Louisville. However, Indiana found a way to stay true to its form and finish strong. 

“When you wear that Indiana logo it should mean something,” Stanton said. 

This Indiana team was one of the most dominant hitting teams in the country as well as the best in program history and it was no secret that the Hoosiers could outhit their opponents. 

“When you believe that you are one of the best hitting teams in the country, the results will come,” Stanton said. 

The results were clear as day with Team 50 shattering records such as: batting average (.312), runs (401), home runs (81), RBIs (374) and hits (485). For reference the previous records for these statistics were: .293 batting average (1997), 328 runs (1994), 56 home runs (2022), 278 RBI (1994), and 466 hits (1994). 

A freshman led the charge during this record-breaking season while starting to write her own legacy.

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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)

Taryn Kern was a force all season long as she earned her way to be the Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Year. Kern set Indiana single-season records with home runs (23), RBIs (68) and slugging percentage (.942). Her 23 home runs also put her tied for 10th all time in Indiana history along with former four-year starters.

For softball, it takes more than just one standout athlete to contribute to a winning season and Indiana had plenty to choose from. In total the Hoosiers ended up with six All-Big Ten athletes. Kern and sophomore Taylor Minnick were the highlights as they were named to the All-Big Ten First Team. Sarah Stone, Cora Bassett and freshman Avery Parker were all named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. Cassidy Kettleman joined Kern and Parker for the All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors as well. 

Along with Kern, there were four Hoosiers that had double-digit home run numbers: Brianna Copeland (14), Minnick (12), Stone (10) and Parker (10). 

Brianna Copeland warms up before Indiana’s win over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the Hoosier Classic. (HN photo/Nicholas McCarry)

As the saying goes, all good things come to an end. It became true for Team 50 as it reached the program’s first NCAA Regional since 2011. After a second-place finish in both the regular season and the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana was granted an at-large bid as a No. 2 seed in the Knoxville Regional. Indiana had tallied its first 40-win season since 1994 and best record in the Shonda Stanton era. 

The host school of the Regional, No. 4-ranked Tennessee, advanced to the Super Regionals with a 7-3 win over Indiana on Sunday. It ended IU’s season and gave the Hoosiers a new benchmark for success moving forward.

To that point, Indiana was incredibly successful this season. Whether it is the young core that can punish opponents, the history of the program with the 1983 Team in attendance as Team 50 swept the Michigan Wolverines, or the floods of youth softball teams and players lining up for autographs from these young women at Andy Mohr Field, this year of Indiana softball provided much more than 44 wins.

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