Despite outscoring Rutgers 37-11 in three games to open Big Ten play this weekend at Andy Mohr Field, IU softball was left with an empty feeling after the series.
The Hoosiers coasted to a pair of victories Friday by defeating the Scarlet Knights 9-2 and 23-2 in five innings. IU was unable to replicate those offensive performances in Saturday’s game and mustered only five hits in a 7-5 loss.
IU, 16-15 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten, has now won 10 of its last 12 games. However, failing to secure the series sweep showed IU’s tendency to turn in sub-par performances.
“Saturday was one of those days,” IU Coach Michelle Gardner said. “We started off good, and then we got really tight. We have to find a way to not have that happen.”
IU recorded four of its five hits Saturday in the first inning and jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
Senior utility player Erin Lehman and junior infielder Rachel O’Malley both had run-scoring doubles.
From that inning onwards, IU’s bats went quiet.
With the bases loaded in the fifth, IU scored just once when Lehman reached on a fielding error by Rutgers junior infielder Meaghan Wells.
With two runners on base in the sixth, junior infielder Taylor Uden hit a hard ground ball to Rutgers senior pitcher Shayla Sweeney, who got Uden out at first base.
In total, the Hoosiers stranded seven runners Saturday.
“It was disappointing, but as long as we get better and learn from it, then I’m OK,” Gardner said.
The Hoosiers secured the series win by taking both games Friday.
Thanks to an avalanche of offense, IU combined for 34 hits, seven doubles and five home runs in the doubleheader. Specifically, the 23-2 mercy-rule victory in the second game of the day set several IU single-game records.
The 23 runs were a new IU Big Ten single-game best and the most with Gardner as coach. The 20 hits, 23 RBI and four home runs were also the most since Gardner took over at IU in June 2008.
“I’ve been on both sides of that type of game,” Gardner said. “One side feels better than the other, but that’s a tough game, regardless.”
After failing to record a hit in three games last weekend, senior infielder CaraMia Tsirigos picked up four in the doubleheader. Acting as the designated player, Tsirigos launched a three-run homer to cap IU’s scoring in the first game before starting the nightcap with a grand slam.
Tsirigos’ four homers are tied for the team lead with Uden.
“I felt like CaraMia’s needed to step it up a little bit,” Gardner said. “Her role is to hit in runs, and her performance yesterday was phenomenal.”
Freshman utility player Gabbi Jenkins extended her hitting streak to 11 games this weekend and recorded four hits while plating six runs from the leadoff spot.
“My style of hitting is fit for somewhere like the leadoff spot,” Jenkins said. “Everybody around me is just really supportive, and that’s a big part of it.
In the circle, IU used the same pitching order in each game of the series. Sophomore pitcher Tara Trainer started, freshman pitcher Emily Goodin relieved Trainer, and sophomore pitcher Emily Kirk closed out each contest.
Trainer received the decision in each game and improved her record to 8-8 by throwing 9.2 innings over the weekend. Trainer kept walks to a minimum and issued only three free passes.
Goodin threw a total of five innings in her three appearances while surrendering three home runs Saturday as the Scarlet Knights built their lead.
IU will have a quick turnaround this week with a midweek nonconference game at Louisville before visiting Penn State for a three-game series.
“We’re going to have fun,” Jenkins said. “I think it will help us prepare for the weekend, maybe even better.”