It was all smiles at Andy Mohr Field as IU softball picked up multiple wins in a single weekend for the first time this season.
In the Hoosier Classic, IU went 3-2, sweeping the series with the University of Illinois-Chicago, splitting a pair with Wisconsin Green Bay and dropping a game to Northwestern.
It was also a record-setting weekend. Senior outfielder Rebecca Blitz collected the 200th hit of her career, becoming only the sixth Hoosier to do so.
“I honestly didn’t even know that statistic, but it felt good because I didn’t even know that I was close to 200,” Blitz said.
IU couldn’t ask for a better opening day as the performance was just enough to defeat both UIC and Green Bay.
The third inning proved to be the difference maker against UIC. After being walked, Blitz stole second and third before a single from sophomore outfielder Gabbi Jenkins brought her in for the first score of the day. Then, the Hoosiers loaded the bases after another single and a hit-by-pitch.
Junior infielder Sarah Galovich continued the hot hitting for the Hoosiers after her groundout brought in Jenkins. An RBI single up the middle from sophomore infielder Katie Lacefield brought in senior infielder Taylor Uden to secure a 3-0 early advantage.
IU would go on to score one run in each of the next two innings to take a 5-0 lead over UIC. The Flames battled back in the sixth as they scored three runs. But, pitching came up clutch for the Hoosiers, striking out the final batter leaving two on base to secure the 5-3 victory.
“We were just keeping it simple,” Blitz said. “I don’t think anybody tried to do too much.”
Game two of the day made IU sweat even more.
The Hoosiers had a 1-0 lead after the second but the bottom of the fourth stretched the lead even further. Senior infielder Rachel O’Malley knocked a home run to center field to bring in Lacefield to get things started. Jenkins then singled up the middle to score the third run of the inning for IU to take a 4-0 lead.
Green Bay responded as the Phoenix hit a three-run home run to get back into the game in the top of the sixth. But, IU maintained the lead to round out the day.
“It was great for us to see us to score first, extend the lead and be able to lock down that game,” IU Coach Shonda Stanton said. “I feel like we played a full day of softball on Friday which was nice to see.”
A rematch with Northwestern proved to be the same result as the last time the two teams met earlier this season in the Kajikawa Classic on Feb. 10.
The Wildcats had 10 hits on the day including three home runs to keep IU at bay. A grand slam in the top of the sixth proved to be the difference maker as Northwestern went on to cruise to a 9-2 victory.
For the second game in a row, struggles down the stretch doomed the Hoosiers. In the rematch with Green Bay, it was tied 2-2 heading into the sixth. But, with two outs IU dropped the ball at first base to extend the inning for the Phoenix. This time, Green Bay made the Hoosiers pay for the mistake.
Things got started with an RBI double to left center to take a one-run advantage. Then, Green Bay homered to left field to make it a 5-2 lead. IU couldn’t respond as the Phoenix took the victory in the rematch.
“It’s a mentality and in that situation, we had two outs and had an error, it’s about the fundamentals, Stanton said.”
The Hoosiers finished out the weekend the same way they started — with a win against UIC.
IU took a commanding 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third after a three-run home run by freshman catcher Maddie Westmoreland, but everything went wrong in the top of the fourth for the Hoosiers.
After a wild pitch advanced the runner, UIC scored off an RBI single up the middle. Then, another RBI double and a bases-loaded walk gave UIC the 4-3 lead.
But, the Hoosiers responded in the bottom of the fourth. Westmoreland tied the game with an RBI single, then a fielder’s choice brought in Jenkins. IU wasn’t done as O’Malley doubled to left center to give the Hoosiers a 7-4 advantage.
IU went on to clinch an 8-4 victory over UIC to round out the weekend.
“I loved it all,” Stanton said. “UIC battled back and we bent but we didn’t break today.”
After a 23-game road trip to begin 2018, the Hoosiers delivered in the home opening weekend. IU will be back in action on Tuesday at Andy Mohr Field to take on Louisville.
“There’s nothing like being at home,” Stanton said. “I felt like we had a strong start on Friday, we didn’t play so well in the middle, but I like how we responded today.”
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