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IU closes nonconference play against Kentucky



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Second baseman Erin Lehman fields a grounder in the gap in hopes of making a play at first during the second of two games against the Boilermakers on Tuesday. IU beat Purdue 4-0 in the first game while Purdue took the second 2-1. Jessica Marquez Buy Photos

IU softball senior infielder CaraMia Tsirigos is only guaranteed 10 more games in her collegiate career.

Tsirigos has appeared in 180 games for the Hoosiers throughout the past four seasons and plays primarily as the team’s first baseman or designated player.

She has played in at least 42 games each season with IU and has appeared in 42 of the team’s 43 games this season. Despite this, the realization her career is coming to a close hasn’t come any easier for the Atlanta, Georgia, 
native.

“I’m starting to kind of realize that it’s coming down to the wire,” Tsirigos said. “I just want to take in and enjoy 
every moment.”

Tsirigos is one of four seniors on the IU team, along with catcher Maria Latimer, utility player Erin Lehman and outfielder Kayla Mathewson. The quartet will play their final nonconference game Wednesday night when IU welcomes No. 20 Kentucky to Andy Mohr Field.

Wednesday’s game kicks off an important stretch for IU, 19-24 overall and 5-9 in the Big Ten, to close the regular season. Seven of IU’s final 10 games, including its next four, will be played in 
Bloomington.

“It’s a big weekend for us as a team,” Tsirigos said. “We definitely can get some wins out of it.”

Before IU plays Maryland in a pivotal three-game conference series this weekend, it must turn its attention to Kentucky.

It’s been nearly a decade since IU last beat Kentucky, which is currently 26-13 overall and 6-9 in the SEC. The Wildcats have outscored the Hoosiers 12-2 during three Wildcat wins since the latest Hoosier victory in 2008.

It will be the second nonconference game for IU during the Big Ten season. IU lost at Louisville 2-1 on March 29.

“It’ll be no different than any other game,” IU Coach Michelle Gardner said. “It’s a chance to really get prepared for the weekend.”

It will also be the second time this season IU wears special pink uniforms for Breast Cancer Awareness Night. The team also did this during its series at then-No. 7 Minnesota.

The Hoosiers can bring some positive vibes into their meeting with the Wildcats after last weekend’s results.

While IU lost two of three games at then-No. 25 Ohio State, its win Saturday snapped a streak of 42 consecutive losses against teams ranked in the 
USA Today/Coaches Poll.

“We know how good we are,” Tsirigos said. “We’ve handled a lot of good teams earlier in the year, and anybody you play is going to teach you and help you grow.”

Kentucky also lost its series last weekend 2-1 and was no-hit Sunday in a loss to No. 1 Florida. However, the Wildcat bats have the ability to produce at the plate. Four Kentucky players hit higher than a .300 average.

In particular, the game could see each team’s power hitters flex their muscles. Sophomore utility player Abbey Cheek leads Kentucky with seven home runs and 27 RBI, while Tsirigos has comparable numbers with eight home runs and 30 RBI for IU.

The eight home runs are a career-high for Tsirigos, who is tied for the fifth-most career homers in IU program history with 25.

Kentucky’s ability to continue its shutdown pitching may be the game’s deciding factor. Senior pitchers Meagan Prince and Shannon Smith combined have 19 wins, 12 complete games and an ERA of 2 this season.

The game will be IU’s 11th against a ranked team in 2017, and Gardner doesn’t expect the occasion to overwhelm her team.

“The team we have is very competitive,” Gardner said. “The loss column isn’t a true indication of how talented we are.”

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