Time is running out for IU softball to change the course of its season.
Since starting its Big Ten schedule with two blowout wins against Rutgers, IU has gone 1-7.
Six of those losses came in conference play, dropping the Hoosiers into a tie for ninth in the conference standings.
After a sweep at the hands of No. 7 Minnesota last weekend, Tuesday’s home doubleheader against Purdue could serve as a make or break moment in the team’s season.
“Mentally, we just have to make sure we’re ready,” IU senior infielder Cara Mia Tsirigos said. “We have to bounce back quick and have a short-term memory.”
Despite losing twice to Minnesota by mercy rule, IU, 17-21 overall and 3-6 in the Big Ten, displayed encouraging signs on offense during the series. The six runs scored by IU in Friday’s 11-6 loss were the most the team scored against Minnesota since 2010, and all came at the expense of Minnesota’s best pitcher, All-American senior Sara Groenewegen.
In Saturday’s 10-2 loss, IU out-hit Minnesota 5-4 with Groenewegen in the circle.
Tsirigos, who posted five hits and four RBI during the Minnesota series, said she hopes the momentum can translate to Tuesday’s games.
“We really put Minnesota’s pitching to the test at moments,” Tsirigos said. “It was exciting to see what we can do against top pitching.”
Both Purdue, 15-26 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten, and IU bring five-game losing streaks into Tuesday.
Like the Hoosiers, the Boilermakers began conference play well, sweeping Michigan State at home in three games. However, Purdue has since dropped consecutive series to Iowa and Illinois.
Beyond each team’s recent form, IU and Purdue also share similarities when it comes to hitting and pitching performances this season.
Both teams have a team ERA around 4 and primarily use a three-pitcher rotation, with two pitchers posting an ERA around 3.5 and one pitcher with an ERA around 7.
For Purdue, sophomore pitchers Kaitlynn Moody and Maddie Damon anchor the rotation, despite having losing records.
Each team also has three regular starters hitting above .300 and a team batting average in the .270s, although Purdue junior outfielder Maya Hughes leads both teams with 55 hits.
While the two rivals may mirror each other statistically, IU Coach Michelle Gardner is only focused on her team entering the series.
“We had a game plan and stuck to it against Minnesota, it was just a combination of having a bad weekend in the circle and Minnesota being very good,” Gardner said. “Offensively I felt good about what we’re doing and where we’re at going into Tuesday.”
Recent history indicates a tight series is to be expected, with IU posting a 7-9 record against Purdue since 2011.
Considering how the Hoosiers and Boilermakers have each seen a dramatic downturn in their Big Ten fortunes, each will be more than eager to correct their slides against an in-state rival.
“We talk a lot about not making one game any more important than another,” Tsirigos said. “Whoever it is, it will be a short mental and physical turnaround for us.”
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