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IU travels to MSU for weekend set

The IU softball team plays in its second Big Ten series this weekend against Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich.

Play starts with a game at 4 p.m. Friday, followed by a 1 p.m. game Saturday. IU closes the weekend with a 1 p.m. matchup Sunday.

After Michigan State’s first Big Ten series with Penn State was postponed due to poor weather conditions, this weekend will mark the 14-13 Spartans’ conference opener, as well as their home opener.

“I want to have a complete game. We had bits and pieces of a complete game last weekend, but I really want to see us do all three parts of the game,” IU Coach Michelle Gardner said of the team’s goal for this weekend. “I want good pitching, because I think that’s kind of where the game starts. Obviously I want to be able to score runs and get some run production, and defensively we have to play clean.”

The Hoosiers’ pitching squad is currently posting a 3.24 earned-run average and will go up against a Spartan offense posting a .277 batting average. Michigan State’s offense is led by the .434 batting average of senior outfielder Kylene Hopkins, who was selected earlier in the season for the watch list for the 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. The Spartans have been outscored by their opponents 97-92 in their 2013 campaign.

“Last year we played (Michigan State) in our last Big Ten series, and I would say it was one of the harder series we had in the whole Big Ten Season,” sophomore utility player Shannon Cawley said. “They didn’t win a single conference game last year, but they’ll score runs and play hard from the first inning to the last inning.”

Senior infielder Amanda Wagner, sophomore infielder Brianna Meyer and Cawley combined for 17 of IU’s 25 hits in last week’s games against Louisville and Ohio State.

 Wagner led the way for the Hoosiers, posting a .636 batting average in the four games last week, followed by a .500 batting average for Meyer and a .364 batting average for Cawley. Wagner currently ranks first in the Big Ten Conference for batting average (.473) and on-base percentage (.574). The senior’s batting average is also eighth-best among NCAA Division I hitters.

“Last weekend we had two really big performances by Amanda Wagner and Bri Meyer, and everybody contributed here and there,” Cawley said. “I’m hoping to see a little bit of everybody stepping up and playing a big role (this weekend).”

The Hoosiers head into East Lansing with a 1-2 record in the Big Ten and a 16-16 record on the season.

Both Gardner and Cawley said the team will need to play a complete game in order to be successful against Ohio State.

“The last few weekends we’ve had games where we’ve been able to hit but then we haven’t been able to play good defense, or vice versa. I think in order for us to really be successful this weekend and win the series and potentially sweep, we’re going to need to bring together all of the elements of our game,” Cawley said. “(We need) solid defense, good pitching, and then obviously a lot of run support.”

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