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The battle for first place



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Freshman Taylor Uden swings at a pitch during the 2016 season against Ohio State.  Wensi Wang Buy Photos

After being one game away from the worst start in program history, IU Coach Shonda Stanton said to not give up on her team just yet because, come April, they were going to “punch some people in the mouth.” With a few days away from the beginning of May, she stuck to her word.

The Hoosiers were one game away from the worst start in program history and lost over 20 non-conference games. But Stanton did not give up on her team, and they now sit at 15-2 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are only a half-game back of No. 15 Michigan from the top spot in the conference with only two series left in the season.

With Michigan coming, this weekend has the potential to be one of the greatest in program history. But it will also be special for senior infielder Taylor Uden, as she will take on her sister, sophomore infielder Madison Uden, one last time.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a hot streak anymore — we’ve just been playing well,” Uden said. “We’re a good team, so we’re here to compete. I think that we proved that, since we’re 15-2. We want to show Michigan who’s here to compete in the Big Ten, and I’m excited to see my sister and beat her three times.”

Despite a handful of losses in non-conference play, the Wolverines have easily made their way through the Big Ten with dominant pitching and consistent hitting. Michigan is riding a 14-game winning streak but is only 8-4 on the road.

The Wolverines have been able to ride the performance of freshman Meghan Beaubien in the circle all season. She is the front-runner for Big Ten Player of the Year and was named as a finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. In her 160.1 innings pitched, she has a 0.74 ERA, 201 strikeouts and has only given up 62 hits.

While Beaubien dominates in the circle, the rest of the team continues to perform strongly at the plate. Michigan has seen a strong performance from its team at the plate. The Wolverines have seven players batting over .300. Junior infielder Faith Canfield leads the way with a .413 BA and 64 hits at the lead off position.

History has not been kind to IU, as Michigan holds a 51-2 record over the Hoosiers dating back to 1997, including a 15-game win streak.

This weekend has the same feel as the Big Ten opener when IU hosted a then-No. 18 Ohio State team that was known for its dominant offensive firepower and resulted in a series sweep. Michigan will be the toughest test for IU thus far, but now, thanks to the impressive performance in conference play, the Hoosiers should not be considered underdogs.

“Nothing is going to be different. We’ll prepare the same way and we’ll go out and play the same way,” Stanton said. “The only thing that’s bigger is the result at the end of the game. Once the game’s over, you see the impact in the standings. It’s going to be a great weekend, senior weekend, I’m proud of this group and the seniors we have.”

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