It’s been a season full of growing pains for IU softball thus far.
The 3-15 record looks ugly on paper, but taking a closer look on how the Hoosiers have been performing under first-year IU Coach Shonda Stanton, it’s easy to see why she’s excited to progress further into the season.
“We know who we are and why we’re here,” Stanton said. “We ask them every day if they’re strong enough for the journey, that’s what this is about. We’re focusing a lot on culture.”
Production at the plate has been the Achilles heel for the Hoosiers up to this point. IU currently sits second in the Big Ten in strikeouts, with 109, and 12th in batting average. The Hoosiers have scored one run or fewer in 13 of 18 games.
There have been times where IU has shown the ability to string hits together and put runners on base, but time and time again, it’s been an issue putting runs on the board. Last weekend, the Hoosiers were only out-hit once in of five games, but still only came away with a single victory to show for it.
All season, Stanton has said her team needs more quality at-bats and can’t overthink how they approach the plate. If IU hopes to compete with the gauntlet of the Big Ten, the bats are going to need to start producing.
“It’s timely and clutch hitting,” Stanton said. “In a number of games that we’ve lost, outhit our opponent. But it’s not about that — it’s not about the end result, the hit. It’s about the process and having productive at bats.”
Despite the lack of offensive production, IU has been able to rely on pitching to remain competitive in games.
The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in total batters struck out by a wide margin with 123. Junior pitcher Tara Trainer has been the true bright spot for the Hoosiers and has proven to be a reliable No. 1 starter. Her 16 strikeouts against Furman sits 10th all-time in IU history for a single game.
Sophomores Josie Wood and Emily Goodin have both shown they can be trusted to go out and provide quality innings for the Hoosiers. Last weekend, Stanton threw Goodin for two starts, despite only starting one other time this season due to being relied on as the main reliever. Despite the fewer starts, she still sits second in innings pitched for IU and has the lowest ERA among the staff with 2.01.
“I think we’ve seen great things from all of them,” Stanton said. “It’s about working ahead and eliminating free passes because you’ll see moments of greatness.”
Coming into the season, it was known that Stanton was going to get her team to play aggressively on the bases due to her success at Marshall, ranking top 10 in the country in stolen bases from 2009 to 17. IU is currently second in the Big Ten with 24 stolen bases, but her team also leads the conference at getting caught.
Last season, IU only had 41 stolen bases. If the Hoosiers hope to remain competitive with the home opening weekend just around the corner, base running will need to continue being a strength.
“We just have that mentality of being a lion and wanting that next 60 feet,” senior outfielder Rebecca Blitz said.
The Hoosiers have a major weekend coming up with a trip to Norman, Oklahoma. IU will face the likes of Illinois State, No. 18 South Carolina, and the two-time defending national champions, No. 5 Oklahoma. It will be the final road series that IU will play before traveling home next weekend for the Hoosier Classic.
The Oklahoma Tournament this weekend will be the toughest series of games thus far for the Hoosiers. But, if the offensive production picks up to the same level of play as pitching and base running, IU can make significant strides in the process.
“It’s not about them, it’s about us going out there and getting better every pitch,” Stanton said. “That’s our focus this weekend.”
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