For the second weekend in a row, IU softball brought out the brooms.
Thanks largely in part to an impressive defensive performance, IU swept Michigan State on the road to capture a 6-0 start in Big Ten play. It’s the best start for the Hoosiers since 1994 when the team began 9-0 in the conference.
“Our defense played huge all weekend,” IU Coach Shonda Stanton said. “I felt like we made a lot of plays, we got some big pitches and big moments. All around, I was impressed with our team and how we competed.”
Despite being out-hit in both games Friday, IU did just enough to sweep the doubleheader due to great defensive plays down the stretch.
In the first game, IU only allowed two Spartan runs, despite giving up nine hits. Yet the Hoosiers found big hits when it needed them.
In the top of the first, IU got on the board after freshman catcher Maddie Westmoreland singled to center field and senior outfielder Rebecca Blitz turned on the jets, flipping over the catcher to touch home plate.
Michigan State took the lead in the bottom of the fourth after a home run and double brought in two runs. IU responded in the very next frame after sophomore outfielder Gabbi Jenkins sent a triple to left field to tie up the game. Then, Westmoreland had her second RBI of the game after hitting a single to left field to give IU a lead that would end up being just enough.
“In general, the pitchers did an awesome job finishing games and just combining for a team effort," Jenkins said. “On top of that, we were able to get some runs when we needed to.”
In the final game of the doubleheader, IU saw the same result.
A home run in the bottom of the first opened the game strong for Michigan State. In response, the Hoosiers scored all their runs in the top of the fifth. Blitz continued her strong weekend with an RBI single to score the first run. Then, Westmoreland came up big again with a two-RBI single after the Spartans allowed a run due to a throwing error.
Those three runs would be just enough to hold off Michigan State at the end after another home run in the bottom of the seventh. IU clinched the series officially after winning both games, 3-2.
“I think with every pitch, with every win, you see more confidence built into this team,” Stanton said. “We really believe that regardless of the situation, that we can come out on top. I really like how we’re staying in the moment, one pitch at a time, fighting and competing for each inning."
The Hoosiers saved their best performance for last in the series-sweeping win.
It was a 1-1 tie after the third inning, but the lone hit on the weekend from junior infielder Sarah Galovich proved to be crucial. She sent a two-run home run to right field, giving the Hoosiers a 3-1 lead. Then, sophomore infielder Katie Lacefield doubled to left field in the bottom of the fifth to plate another run. Westmoreland capped off the weekend with another RBI single to officially put the game away.
With the 5-1 victory, Stanton picked up the 600th win of her coaching career.
“I think it was just a big team effort because we’ve known that we’re capable of this but now it’s just showing to everyone else,” Jenkins said.
Despite the struggles on the road to begin the season, IU was able to sweep another Big Ten opponent this weekend. The Hoosiers have been nothing short of impressive to start conference play. It doesn’t get any easier as IU will put the seven-game winning streak on the line against Nebraska at Andy Mohr Field this weekend.
“We’ve been talking all year about sticking to our process and preparing well,” Stanton said. “We’ll prepare for a really good Nebraska team that’s coming in, and I’m excited about being home again for the weekend matchup.”