For three games this weekend at Andy Mohr Field, IU softball executed to perfection.
IU’s starting pitching was dominant, its defense was solid, and its late-game hitting was precise.
All phases of the game were on display, and the Hoosiers swept the Maryland Terrapins in a series IU needed to win.
“It was an overall team performance,” IU Coach Michelle Gardner said. “They battled and found a way to get it done. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
IU, 22-25 overall and 8-9 in the Big Ten, achieved its first conference sweep since March 2016 thanks to lights-out pitching.
IU’s arms were dominant against Maryland, 9-33-1 overall and 2-13 in conference.
IU’s starting pitcher threw a complete game in each game of the series.
Sophomore Tara Trainer went the distance in Friday’s first game and Sunday while sophomore Emily Kirk did the same in Friday’s second game.
“We had phenomenal pitching all the way around,” Gardner said. “That’s what we’ve waited to see.”
Trainer walked six batters in Friday’s 2-1 walk-off win while also allowing four hits.
She took a shutout into the seventh, but an RBI double by Maryland senior outfielder Sarah Calta tied the game at one and caused Trainer’s scoreless outing to come to an end.
However, IU junior infielder Taylor Uden scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly from freshman catcher Bella Norton in the bottom of the seventh.
Uden continued her good form at the plate this weekend. The Arizona native has a six-game hitting streak and recorded two hits in each game against the Terrapins.
“We knew they were going to throw a lot of off-speed stuff,” Uden said. “So getting my foot down in time and really seeing the ball through the zone, versus just swinging, was a big deal for me.”
Uden also scored the first run of Friday’s walk-off win on a wild pitch from Maryland senior Madison Martin, who threw a complete game in the loss.
Friday’s second game, a 5-0 victory for IU, was highlighted by the pitching of Kirk and the offensive performances of IU’s juniors.
A two-run home run from Uden in the first inning set the tone before three more juniors plated runs. Outfielder Rebecca Blitz, infielder Rachel O’Malley and utility player Aimilia McDonough all added run-scoring hits.
In the circle, Kirk struck out four and did not walk any of the 30 batters she faced. The shutout win was her second victory of the season.
“It keeps the game moving when our pitchers get the job done,” Uden said. “It’s so nice when our pitchers throw strikes because our defense is very good.”
The series finale Sunday was a spitting image of Friday’s first game.
In both the first and third game of the series, Martin and Trainer tossed complete games, Trainer surrendered only four hits and the Terrapin defense committed two errors.
The Hoosiers also won both games 2-1 in walk-off fashion. Although, Sunday’s walk-off win came in extra innings.
Uden gave IU an early 1-0 lead with a first-inning RBI single.
Maryland would answer Uden’s early production by scoring on a wild pitch from Trainer.
The game remained deadlocked until the bottom of the eighth, when Blitz sent a single over the head of Calta, Maryland’s left fielder.
Junior outfielder Sarah Thompson scored the winning run from third base as the ball rolled to the wall.
Blitz had been 0 for 3 in the game prior to her winning hit.
“You’re not going to get her out four times, she’s too good of a hitter,” Gardner said. “She told me before the at-bat, ‘I’m going to get it done right now.’”
The series sweep was exactly what IU hoped to accomplish entering the weekend.
It’s the second Big Ten series win for IU this season and lifted the Hoosiers to sixth place in the conference standings with two more Big Ten series remaining for IU.
“I’ve known it’s been there all along,” Gardner said. “I’ve just been waiting for it to show up.”
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