After the 6-0 start to Big Ten play, IU finally came back down to Earth this weekend.
The Hoosiers fell for the first time in a conference series, 1-2, to Nebraska. It was an evenly matched series for the most part, but defensive lapses and the inability to find runs at times proved to be detrimental.
“We’ve just got to be cooler out there,” IU Coach Shonda Stanton said. “It was more so our inability to score. We’re young at some positions and we’re learning a new system. I think that we’re all going to be better for it.”
In game one, it took a single inning to end the seven-game winning streak and undefeated start to Big Ten play for the Hoosiers.
It was a scoreless, defensive slugfest until Nebraska erupted in the top of the fifth. An error at first base resulted in the Cornhuskers scoring their first run of the day. Then, with the bases loaded, junior pitcher Tara Trainer walked a batter to bring in another run. A double to center field followed with two more runs, and a single up the middle made it a 5-0 advantage for Nebraska.
For the first time in Big Ten play, IU couldn’t get anything going on offense. The Hoosiers fell in game one of the series, 5-0, after being held to just two hits and committing three errors on the day.
“They have a good pitching staff all-around, but I think offensively we just need to connect on the right moments,” sophomore infielder Katie Lacefield said. “They did a good job of being able to string their hits, and I think that’s where we need to get better.”
In the rematch Saturday, IU made sure the result was different.
Nebraska took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first after a throwing error scored a run. Freshman catcher Maddie Westmoreland responded in the bottom of the fifth with a two-run home run over left field to give IU the 2-1 lead. The Cornhuskers took the lead back after a single up the middle brought in two runs to make it a 3-2 advantage. Westmoreland followed up her home run in the bottom of the sixth with a groundout that brought in the tying run.
Despite having 14 hits on the day, there was only one that proved to be the deciding factor for IU.
After loading the bases in the bottom of the eighth, Lacefield knocked a single through the right side to bring in the walk-off run for the Hoosiers in the 4-3 victory.
“I just kind of had a free mind up there and I really wanted to step up for my team,” Lacefield said.
A single error proved to be costly in the final game of the series.
The Hoosiers had a 1-0 lead early after junior infielder Sarah Galovich doubled to right center. But a double to right field tied up the game for Nebraska in the top of the fifth inning.
Then, the Cornhuskers took the lead for good after a Hoosiers throw from right field to third was just off the mark and scored the winning run.
It was a competitive game, but IU just couldn’t capitalize on hits at opportune times, and Nebraska took advantage of the one defensive miscue to take the rubber match, 2-1.
“It’s those little things that help you win a ball game, and that’s what we’ve done a better job of is being able to take those little things and run with it,” Stanton said. “Today, we just didn’t do enough of those little things.”
Nebraska made the right plays at the right times to spoil the historic start to Big Ten play for the Hoosiers. IU won’t have much time to dwell on this weekend, as Butler will come into town Tuesday for a non-conference doubleheader.
“I’m excited about the team that we’re continuing to become,” Stanton said. “We’re not great yet, but we’re becoming a solid ball club.”