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Shonda Stanton embraces change as softball fall season ends



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Then-freshman pitcher Josie Wood throws a pitch during a 2016 game against Indiana State University at Andy Mohr Field. Now a redshirt sophomore, Wood threw pitches during IU's fall season after missing all of the 2017 season with an injury. Wensi Wang Buy Photos

Shonda Stanton didn't want any preconceived notions.

IU softball's new head coach didn't rely on film from last season to tell her what kind of team she inherited from former Coach Michelle Gardner.

Instead, Stanton has been implementing her own philosophy during the past four months in Bloomington.

"For us, whether we came off of a top-25 season or a season that was a challenging season, it's still all about now," Stanton said. "It's about creating your best season now."

The fall season came to a close for IU Oct. 13, with a Cream and Crimson Scrimmage at Andy Mohr Field.

The game ended in a 3-3 tie after eight innings, but featured plenty of stolen bases, a hallmark of Stanton's teams during her 18 seasons at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. 

"We had the opportunity in our first fall game to steal 11 bases and so then you have buy-in," Stanton said. "It's nice to have some early success."

Running the basepaths was often a liability for the Hoosiers last season. It was part of the reason IU lost six of its final seven games in 2017, including a first-round exit to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament.

Change is coming at multiple spots for the Hoosiers. 

Gone is power-hitting designed player CaraMia Tsirigos and utility player Erin Lehman, along with two other seniors from last season's roster.

Pitching will also look radically different for IU under Stanton. Sophomore pitcher Josie Wood is set to return after missing all of last season while recovering from an injury.

Wood tossed several innings during IU's seven-game fall season.

"We're gonna need her," Stanton said. "Anybody that's ever been injured can appreciate how tough that is mentally to come back from and face those fears."

Not counting the the intrasquad scrimmage last Friday, IU went 4-2 in six fall season games against other opponents. This included a pair of wins against IU-Purdue University Indianapolis and wins against Miami (Ohio) and Heartland Community College.

Stanton used the six-week fall season to emphasize the concepts of being "first up" and "failing forward" to her team.

"We like to talk to our team about it being a game of contrast," Stanton said. "With it being a game of contrast, when we make a mistake and we're down we want to be first up. We want to fail forward. It's our ability to respond to failure is what's going to make us most successful."

Stanton said she wants her first season in charge of the Hoosiers to be with a player-driven team and not a coach-driven team. 

However, that doesn't mean Stanton won't benefit from familiarity with her assistant coaches.

Kendall Fearn and Chanda Bell, who served as assistants under Stanton for four years at Marshall, made the 299-mile trip with her to Bloomington.

The coaching trio will remain intact for the fifth-straight season when IU begins nonconference play next February.

IU's last NCAA Tournament appearance came at the end of the 2011 season, but Stanton is focused on taking it day-by-day with her new team.

"We can't make any guarantees about what the result is going to be," Stanton said. "But we can control the things we can control. All you got to have is student-athletes who are willing to buy in."

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