They just keep rollin' right along.
Indiana softball improved to 9-0 after another weekend sweep, grabbing a pair of wins over both Duke (4-5) and Syracuse (2-6) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It's officially the second best start in program history.
Tara Trainer picked up right where she left off in Boca Raton, fanning six in a complete game shutout of the Blue Devils to open the weekend. It would only get better from there, as Trainer locked up Big Ten Pitcher of The Week honors for the first time this season. Though early on in the year, the senior has already shown tremendous ability to lead and frankly, give Shonda Stanton one less thing to worry about when it comes to game planning each weekend. If there's one thing the Hoosiers have in 2019, it's consistency and balance inside the circle.
IU finished off Friday's doubleheader 2-0, thanks to clutch hitting from a couple unlikely sources, defeating Syracuse 6-5. That momentum carried the Hoosiers right through the weekend, as Shonda Stanton's club locked up the 3-1 win over Duke Saturday and finished off the job Sunday morning, topping 'Cuse 5-1.
"It was a full solid weekend," Stanton said. "We're headed home 9-0."
For a program that is thought by some to still be in search of its identity, the Hoosiers are doing a darn good job of faking it. For the second straight weekend, Indiana looked like a strong and cohesive unit from start to finish, poised as they took the field in Durham. What might be the most surprising part of it all? Everyone's finding ways to contribute and get involved. At this point in time, Indiana doesn't have a fix-all five-tool star who takes care of everything. And that is perfectly ok.
More than just pure power
If strong starts and pitching owned the headlines for Indiana in week one, the bats certainly came alive with a greater level of consistency last weekend at Duke.
After a slower first weekend at the plate, sophomore Maddie Westmoreland wasted no time coming alive, getting her first long ball of the year in the second inning of play Friday, driving in a pair of runs. That raw power carried over into game two in the form of catcher Bella Norton, who launched one over the left field fence to put IU ahead early (again) 2-0 in the first.
B1 | Norton sends a two-run shot to left, plating Lambert.
No. 24 Indiana 2, Syracuse 0 pic.twitter.com/Eebx84ASZK
— Indiana Softball (@IndianaSB) February 15, 2019
It didn't stop there. First-year Hoosier Camryn Woodall came away from the weekend with three runs batted in, consisting of a timely two-run single to put IU back in front against Syracuse on Friday, as well as her first homer of the campaign. Virtually off the radar coming into 2019, Woodall has a legitimate opportunity to split time at second base moving forward after capitalizing on key opportunities.
"That was huge, especially on a weekend where we hadn't been hitting the ball well," Stanton said. "It's about clutching up and that was great to see her clutch up like that."
Just when we thought Grayson Radcliffe might be the most likely source of consistent offense after a strong first weekend in south Florida (she still had an RBI and plated a run scored against Syracuse), others are finding ways to step up too. That in itself is a major key moving forward, whereas in years past it's been a select group which the program has relied on for success. It's not just the offense alone. It's about the times at which that offense comes through -- most often early on in ballgames -- allowing Indiana's starting pitching some room to breathe and the opportunity to truly dictate the pace of play from there.
Taking the extra 60 feet
There's a reason why we call our newest podcast 'Take 60.' Through two weekends, Indiana has successfully stolen 26 bases on 32 attempts and for the most part, Coach Stanton's mentality on the base paths has paid off. Not only is it yet another way to get more players involved, it also reinforces the same concepts of getting ahead early and not ever looking back.
You never really know who’s going to contribute, but someone always finds a way.
Woodall, Lacefield get their first homers of the year and Indiana is 9-0 through the first two weekends of the year. Not bad. #iusoftball https://t.co/N4DjqVHBlW
— Connor Hines (@ConnorHines17) February 17, 2019
"Our aggressive style of play really paid off," Stanton said. "We're just really excited about this group and how they're performing."
A total of seven different Hoosiers successfully stole a bag last weekend alone. Those names include freshman walk-on Paige Chitwood and sophomore Makayla Ferrari (both with two apiece), who continues to build back to full strength after injury, but still finds ways to get involved and make a difference. That's still not mentioning sophomore Taylor Lambert, a perfect eight-for-eight on the base paths, and perhaps the one player on the roster who has shown the most immediate and dramatic improvement between last season and now.
Shonda Stanton has her options headed into the third weekend. And oh yeah, it's all made a lot easier when you have one of the most elite pitching staffs in the Big Ten handling things in the circle each and every weekend. Indiana's identity might not be evolving overnight, but its talent is coming from some unexpected places -- and that's enough for now.
- Tara Trainer finished the weekend 2-0 with one save, two complete games, and 12 strikeouts in over 17 innings of work, compiling a 0.41 ERA.
- As a whole, the Big Ten toppled the ACC in this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 23-13. It's the second time the conference has won in the short four-year history of the tournament.
- Through two weeks of play, Indiana is one of nine remaining undefeated teams in the nation. One of those nine? Loyola Chicago, a team Indiana will face twice this weekend at the Black & Orange Challenge in Macon, GA. The Hoosiers also have matchups with Akron , North Carolina A&T State, and Mercer.