There’s been one aspect of her team IU softball coach Shonda Stanton has felt the most confident with throughout the season thus far – pitching.
Junior Tara Trainer backed that up last weekend when her 16 strikeouts led IU to a shutout victory over Samford. With batting and defense coming up short at times, Stanton has made it known she’s comfortable with whoever is on the mound.
The Hoosiers will continue to lean on their rotation with a tough weekend coming up when the team travels to South Carolina for the Buffalo Wild Wings Classic to take on Furman, Delaware State and USC Upstate.
“When you’re able to attack and play more free, good things happen, and that’s what we haven’t seen with this group,” Stanton said. “We’ve been so tense and playing so tight, but when your pitcher goes out there and is dominating, it allows you to do that.”
It will be a pitching duel when IU opens the weekend with a double-header against Furman. The Paladins are 12-3 and have won 10 of their last 11 games.
Furman relies on the duo of junior Emily DeMonte and senior Lindsey Bert to carry the load on the mound. DeMonte has a 6-0 record behind a 0.53 ERA and Bert leads the Southern Conference with 58 strikeouts in 60.1 innings pitched.
The Paladins don’t score a lot of runs, and in their three losses, they’ve combined for just one score.
“Their pitching staff is pretty legit,” Stanton said. “It’s about having quality at-bats, stringing things together, and doing your job. That’s how you go out there and beat a team like Furman.”
IU's best opportunity to pick up a win this weekend will come in the middle of the trip with a match-up against winless Delaware State. The Hornets' 0-9 start is largely due to a team ERA of 9.18.
Sophomore catcher Desiree Moreno has been Delaware State’s best player at the plate, with two home runs and a .391 batting average. As a team, though, they are only batting at .184.
“It’s going to be fundamentality sound softball this weekend,” Stanton said. “We have to go out there and play well. I’m excited for this weekend because we’ll be tested and challenged.”
IU’s toughest test in the Buffalo Wild Wings Classic will be a two-game clash with undefeated USC Upstate. The Spartans are 13-0 and received votes in the USA Today Top 25 poll this week.
The reason why USC Upstate has been so successful this season is because of batting. Eight of the nine players in the team's starting lineup hit over .300, and the .372 team average ranks fifth in the country. Senior infielder Karla Beasley has seven of the Spartans' 14 home runs, and they average a little over seven runs per game.
USC Upstate may be strong at the plate, but in its last game against Presbyterian, junior pitcher Christina Biggerstaff threw a perfect game for the 9-0 victory.
“We have to be aggressive and get them to chase. If we hang it, then they’re going to hit it,” sophomore pitcher Emily Goodin said. “We have to work on getting ahead in the count early and working out to get them to chase the ball.”
This could be the most difficult weekend for the Hoosiers thus far, with Furman and USC Upstate both proving to be solid teams. IU will need more than just their bullpen to step up and make plays to find success in South Carolina.
“I feel like our pitching is going to compete this weekend," Stanton said. "We have to be better offensively, because we’re facing two very good ball clubs in Furman and Upstate."
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