Sophomore outfielder Gabbi Jenkins has emerged as the most reliable hitter in the IU softball lineup through the first nine games.
She swapped places with senior outfielder Rebecca Blitz as the leadoff batter due to her .414 batting average and 12 hits in the opening weeks of play. The Hoosiers will rely on Jenkins to provide a strong start when they travel to Birmingham, Alabama, this weekend to take on Lipscomb and Samford as part of the Samford Tournament.
In her first game as the leadoff batter, she went 3-4 to propel IU over Boston College in their lone win of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
“We’ve got two leadoffs in Blitz and Gabbi,” IU Coach Shonda Stanton said. “I like our personal a little bit more when we flip it because Blitz is a better bunter. If Gabbi gets on, then we can do some things with her speed. It just opens the hit and run a little better. They are both leadoff-type hitters, I’m excited to see what they can do at the top of the lineup.”
IU will open its double-header with two games against Lipscomb on Friday and Saturday. Jenkins will need to provide similar results if IU hopes to be competitive in the series. The Bison are 5-2 but have lost their last two games. Despite the recent struggles, Lipscomb checks each box when looking for a solid all-around team.
The Bison have four players batting over .300 and their pitchers have a combined 1.48 ERA. In their first game of the season, they took down Georgia Tech 1-0. IU lost to the Yellow Jackets twice last weekend by a combined score of 8-2.
Junior catcher Sarah Higgins leads the Bison with a .407 batting average and 11 hits. In their two losses, they were still able to collect 19 combined hits. This is an aggressive offensive Bison team, so IU will have to rely on its defense to step up to remain competitive.
“I’m excited to play Lipscomb especially because they have some good wins under their belt,” Jenkins said. “I think that’d be a great win for us to pick up.”
IU will round out both days with games against Samford on Saturday and Sunday. The Bulldogs are coming in with a similar record to the Hoosiers, at 1-9. Despite the poor start to the season, Samford has played a difficult schedule thus far with three losses coming to ranked opponents. They were outscored 27-3 in those three games.
The Bulldogs don’t have a single player batting over .300, but junior infielder Madison Couch is close with a .296.
Junior Tara Trainer and sophomore Josie Wood have been the only two starting pitchers for IU thus far, but Stanton hasn’t hesitated to use three different pitchers in a single game.
Samford’s main weakness is its pitching rotation. IU struggles to find hits at times, but Samford’s pitchers have a combined 7.68 ERA and have given up 15 home runs. It’d be the perfect opportunity for the Hoosiers to find some rhythm within their batting order.
“I’m not so much worried with who we’re playing this weekend as much as how we’re going to show up,” Stanton said.
IU showed growth last weekend against Boston College and Georgia Tech after making a few adjustments. The Hoosiers will have to rely on the top of their batting order and solid pitching to pick up key victories this weekend in the middle of the road trip.
“We’ve got to go out there with a reckless abandon and sell out,” Stanton said. “That’s the biggest thing I want to see is our approach and mentality when we take the field.”
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