Through five nonconference tournaments this season, IU softball players and coaches have spent little time in Bloomington.
All 24 of IU’s games in 2017 have been played outside the state of Indiana.
But this weekend, 37 days since the start of the season and more 11,000 miles of round-trip travel later, the Hoosiers will play at Andy Mohr Field as part of the Hoosier Classic.
"They’re spent,” IU Coach Michelle Gardner said. “Even though we say leave it at the door, it creeps in. You can’t help it.”
IU’s grueling travel schedule has taken the team to five different states. The Hoosiers have visited Arizona, Texas, Alabama, California and Tennessee to play tournaments.
The next seven games for the Hoosiers will all be played at home, though, something junior utility player Aimilia McDonough said she’s excited about.
“It’s tiring to be on the road for so long,” McDonough said. “It’s always fun coming back because our fans and our friends are here.”
Sporting an 11-13 record, the Hoosiers will play four games in the Hoosier Classic, their final nonconference tournament of the season. IU will then open Big Ten play at home starting March 24 with a three-game set against Rutgers.
For the Hoosier Classic, IU will play two games each against Bowling Green and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“I want to dominate at home,” Gardner said. “This is our place, and you’re not going to walk in here and take games from us.”
Bowling Green and UIC will both participate in the tournament for the second straight year.
History favors the Hoosiers against both the Falcons and Flames. IU has won six of its last seven meetings with UIC, dating back to 2012, while Bowling Green has never defeated IU in eight games.
“This weekend is notoriously a good weekend for us,” Gardner said. “I want our players to be in a comfort zone."
IU returns home riding a five-game win streak after sweeping the UofM Tournament in Memphis, Tennessee, last weekend.
Strong pitching from freshman Emily Goodin and sophomore Tara Trainer helped IU pick up its first two wins in Memphis before the Hoosier offense came to life. The Hoosiers won each of their last three games by mercy-rule, outscoring opponents 33-5 in 16 combined innings.
The winning streak is IU’s longest since March 2016 and can be extended Saturday afternoon in IU’s opening game against Bowling Green.
The Falcons come to Bloomington on a hot streak of their own as winners of their last four games against Jackson State, Eastern Kentucky and Oklahoma State. Conversely, UIC is struggling as it enters the Hoosier Classic, having lost seven of its last eight games.
However, Gardner remains focused on IU’s play.
“Defensively we make plays and on the mound we’ve had some really good performances,” Gardner said. “It’s time to put all the parts of our game together and then we’re going to go on a roll.”