IU softball coach Shonda Stanton made the message clear for her team.
If the Hoosiers want to pick up their first win of the season this weekend, they have to be able to get timely hits and improve on the defensive side of the ball.
Last weekend in the Kajikawa Classic, the Hoosiers couldn’t string together hits after giving up multiple runs in late innings due to defensive play.
Luckily for IU, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in Atlanta, Georgia, will provide them the best opportunity to pick up their first win. They’ll face Boston College, 1-4, on Friday and Saturday, and then Georgia Tech, 0-2, on Saturday and Sunday.
“I’d like a strong start, clutch hits and for us to take care of the ball,” Stanton said. “In so many innings we gave them four or five outs. You do this in any game against any opponent, they’ll be able to exploit us. That’s the key.”
It’ll be a defensive battle when IU goes up against the Eagles. Four of the five games that Boston College has played have been decided by two or less runs. They struggled at the plate in their opening weekend, and only have two players currently with batting averages higher than .300.
Senior infielder Chloe Sharraba will be a handful for the Hoosiers. She sits 13th in the ACC in batting average with .538 and has one home run on the season.
IU struggled from the plate as well, only scoring a single run in four of the five games last weekend. The Hoosiers have shown flashes that they can get base runners but haven’t been able to find timely hits to capitalize in those key situations.
“I just think we are just getting used to playing with each other,” senior center fielder Rebecca Blitz said. “Our hitting wasn’t where it needed to be. We didn’t get the timely hits. We got the people on base, but we didn’t really get that clutch hit and I think moving forward that’s what we need to be successful.”
The one thing the Hoosiers have been able to rely on is their bullpen.
Stanton mentioned pitching is the one thing she’s most confident in right now, but IU needs either the defense or batting to step up to be successful.
“Having pitching is a game changer," Stanton said. “They want this year to be different, they want change, and I’m encouraged by that. But it doesn’t matter how much you want change if you don’t have the pitching in the circle, and I believe we have that.”
Despite finishing the weekend with a 0-4 record, junior Tara Trainer emerged as the top pitcher in the Hoosiers rotation. She leads the team among starters with a 3.56 ERA and was asked to handle a majority of the load on the mound, appearing in the last four games for the Hoosiers.
She won’t have to go against nearly the same amount of fire power this weekend. Georgia Tech doesn’t have much to scout, considering they’ve only played two games, but they’ve yet to hit a home run this season and only have a single player with over a .300 batting average.
“There were a couple times we were a little flat," Blitz said. "Moving forward, if we have a bit more energy on the field and finish some plays, get that hit or that one last play, it’s the difference in a win or a loss."
Despite the winless start, the sky isn’t falling for the Hoosiers, especially only after five games. Stanton is confident that she has a special team this season with six seniors on the roster.
“We don’t have to worry about our record. We don’t have to worry about the results. Those are going to take care of itself,” Stanton said. “We just have to play one pitch at a time, and you never win or lose until you do. You continue to fight and get better.”
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