IU softball had a chance to turn a corner this weekend. But, after picking up a win in the first game of the weekend against Illinois State, the Hoosiers dropped the final three.
Defensive lapses and struggles in the circle were the determining factor for the 1-3 record in the Oklahoma Tournament. The Hoosiers were underdogs in games against No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 18 South Carolina, but they dropped the rematch with Illinois State.
“One thing we focus on is being strong throughout the journey and winning the day,” freshman designated hitter Maddie Westmoreland said. “I think it’s more of taking it day by day and not really focusing on who we’re competing but focusing on who we are as a team.”
Due to the heroics of Westmoreland, IU looked impressive to start.
Her first home run off the season sparked a rally in the bottom of the fourth that would propel the Hoosiers to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. IU scored three more runs in the inning after an Illinois State fielding error and RBI singles from freshmen catcher Bella Norton and outfielder Taylor Lambert.
IU held on for the 5-2 victory after Illinois State’s comeback attempt fell short despite scoring two runs with the bases loaded in the seventh.
“Anytime you can hit the long ball, it fires up your team,” IU Coach Shonda Stanton said. “It was nice for a freshman to get that type of success.”
After the promising victory, the Hoosiers looked to ride that momentum into a matchup with the defending national champions — Oklahoma.
IU took the early 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third after scoring on a bases loaded walk and Westmoreland hitting her second home run of the weekend. But, that’s when Oklahoma flexed their muscles and looked the part of a top five team. The Sooners scored three runs in the third including a two-run home run, then scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth to widen the lead.
Westmoreland continued her hot-hitting with a RBI single in the top of the fifth, but Oklahoma put the game to rest in the bottom of the sixth after scoring another run to take the 9-3 advantage.
“You have to play very well to be in a ballgame like that,” Stanton said.
Saturday presented IU a chance to make up for the loss to Oklahoma with a rematch against Illinois State.
The Redbirds came out firing on all cylinders as they looked like a different team the second time around. Illinois State took a commanding 4-0 lead in the bottom of the second after hitting four doubles in the inning alone. It seemed as if the Redbirds were hitting everything that IU was throwing their way.
Illinois State then took advantage of a bases loaded situation to make it a 6-0 advantage. The Hoosiers comeback attempt fell short after scoring a lone run in the top of the seventh after sophomore outfielder Gabbi Jenkins brought in senior pinch hitter Aimilia McDonough.
“I thought we came out flat and we didn’t get what we needed in the circle,” Stanton said. “We didn’t play in any phase of the game, but we did get some breaks offensively. I didn’t feel like we brought enough consistency and discipline to start the game, the middle of the game and the end of the game.”
The final game of the weekend against South Carolina saw IU continue to struggle defensively.
South Carolina started off similarly to Illinois State by going out to a 5-0 lead in the top of the second. IU gave up a bases loaded walk, a double and two fielding errors which all turned into points for the Gamecocks.
The Hoosiers attempted to make a comeback after junior infielder Sarah Galovich blasted a home run to left field to plate two runs followed by an error by South Carolina that brought in another. But, the Gamecocks scored two more runs to officially put the game out of reach.
“If you look back, it’s those little things that get to us,” Westmoreland said. “I think it’s more of attacking with every at-bat and getting those quality at bats.”
This weekend had the potential to be a statement maker for the Hoosiers, but it proved to be the same result as the past three.
“We still have a lot of work in front of us,” Stanton said. “But, it encourages me that we’re seeing moments from each kid where they’re building something they’ve done well. What it’s teaching me is patience, go along with the journey and battle. We have one more weekend to continue working on some of these kinks.”
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