While IU softball has tinkered with its lineup this season, a constant has been the team’s struggles when playing on the road.
The Hoosiers brought a 3-11 away record into this weekend’s series at No. 19 Michigan. By Saturday night the record had dropped to 3-14.
IU, 22-28 overall and 8-12 in the Big Ten, was swept in three games by Michigan, which dominated the series in the circle and at the plate.
The Wolverines outscored the Hoosiers 17-2 during the series.
“Scoring two runs in three games obviously isn’t the offense I would like to have,” IU Coach Michelle Gardner said. “We have to find a way to score runs.”
The sweep isn’t fatal to IU’s hopes of qualifying for the Big Ten Tournament. IU still has a four-game cushion ahead of Rutgers for the 12th and final tournament spot.
However, IU no longer has a chance to receive a first-round bye.
Michigan, 37-10-1 overall and 17-3 in the Big Ten, took the first game of a Friday doubleheader 7-1.
Some miscommunication between IU’s pitchers and freshman catcher Bella Norton had an effect on several of Michigan’s runs.
Two pitches from sophomore pitcher Tara Trainer and another pitch from sophomore pitcher Emily Kirk were recorded as passed balls after Norton failed to gather them in her mitt. A run scored on each passed ball.
The Wolverines also hit two home runs in the game. One of these was a two-run blast to right field by Michigan freshman infielder Madison Uden. It was the first home run of her career.
Madison is the younger sister of IU junior infielder Taylor Uden, who described the experience of playing against her younger sister as unreal.
“I’m just proud of her and all that she is doing,” Uden said. “I was looking forward to it all season long. My family made the trip from Arizona to watch the games, and they don’t make it out to games often.”
Uden hadn’t seen her family since IU participated in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, to begin the season in February.
IU won two of five games in that tournament, and the Hoosiers had the chance to take at least one game from Michigan this weekend.
IU led for the majority of Friday’s second game before losing 2-1. An RBI double down the right-field foul line by Norton in the second gave IU a 1-0 lead.
The Hoosiers held the lead until the fifth thanks to strong pitching from freshman Emily Goodin.
In what was only her fourth appearance of the month, Goodin struck out three batters and allowed five hits during 5.1 innings of work.
A solo home run from Michigan sophomore utility player Alex Sobczak tied the game in the fifth before another solo shot in the sixth by junior infielder Aidan Falk scored the run that put Michigan ahead for good.
“I thought Emily threw extremely well,” Gardner said. “If we scored at all she could have won the ballgame.”
IU’s opportunity to take control of the game came and went in the fifth when the Hoosiers failed to score from a bases-load, no-outs situation.
“We went up there and tried to get good at-bats,” Uden said. “It was difficult.”
The final game of the series ended after just six innings Saturday. Michigan defeated IU 8-0 and triggered the NCAA’s mercy rule. Four home runs and a five-run fifth inning powered Michigan to the win.
The Hoosiers were left without a hit until the sixth, when senior infielder CaraMia Tsirigos and Taylor Uden both picked up singles.
“We saw some really good pitching and we are learning as we go,” Uden said. “Getting wins next weekend is all that matters.”
Seeding for the Big Ten Tournament will be determined next weekend when IU closes its conference play against the Michigan State Spartans in Bloomington.