Junior pitcher Tara Trainer couldn’t help but crack a smile despite her team losing the series against No. 15 Michigan, 2-1.
Even though Sunday's game ended in a 2-0 loss, she reiterated that this weekend showed IU softball can compete with anyone in the conference, no matter the ranking.
“I think it just shows that we can compete with anyone,” Trainer said. “Everyone wants to win. We’ve just got to keep our minds right and keep believing.”
After losing game one, 5-1, Michigan had all of the momentum heading into Saturday.
In game two, the Wolverines looked dominant after taking a 4-0 lead through four and a half innings. But behind a two-out rally, sophomore catcher Bella Norton brought some life into the IU bats after she found the gap in left field to score a pair of runs.
Senior infielder Taylor Uden then followed it up with a single to left field to make it a 4-3 Michigan lead. After both teams struggled to find much offense through the next two innings, sophomore outfielder Gabbi Jenkins came up clutch.
In the bottom of the seventh with two outs and two strikes, Jenkins found a gap in left field to tie up the game. Freshman catcher Maddie Westmoreland was close on a walk-off home run, but it headed into extra innings.
Trainer continued to battle in the circle for the Hoosiers and set up a golden situation in the bottom of the ninth. After Michigan threw the ball right down the middle of the plate, Uden sent a solo shot to left field to cap off the comeback in extra innings.
“It was nice to see Uden come up and have a big moment,” IU Coach Shonda Stanton said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the competitiveness and guts and fight of our team all weekend long.”
After an emotional victory Saturday, senior day turned out a little different.
Both teams traded blows as they could not find a run through eight innings. Trainer remained consistent in the circle, and Stanton rode with her until the very end.
IU’s best chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth after a pair of walks and a single loaded the bases. But Michigan freshman Meghan Beaubien retired the next two batters to end the threat.
Michigan had a chance to score in the top of the seventh after Jenkins dropped the ball in right field, but senior outfielder Rebecca Blitz recovered and threw it to senior infielder Rachel O’Malley, who then sent a rocket throw home that resulted in tagging out the runner.
After Blitz couldn’t make the diving catch in center field, Michigan started off the bottom of the ninth with a standup double. Then, Michigan made the sacrifice fly to advance the runner to third. A weird sequence of events resulted in IU's tagging out the runner at home. With two outs, Michigan infielder Madison Uden followed in the footsteps of her Hoosier sister from the game before. Uden sent a double to left field to score a pair of runs as Michigan took a 2-0 lead.
IU continued to string together hits in the bottom of the ninth as Michigan closed out the series with the shutout victory.
“The margin of winning and losing is so small sometimes,” Stanton said. “I told them that it was them that has changed the face of Indiana softball in a few short months. They’ve changed how people view Indiana softball. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Despite the series loss, Trainer and Stanton continued to reiterate the fact that their goals are still right in front of them. If Michigan loses a pair of games, Minnesota drops one, and IU sweeps Rutgers, then the opportunity for a Big Ten regular season championship remains in play.
“Our goals are still in front of us,” Stanton said. “We knew that we wouldn’t get an at-large bid because of the way we started. For us, it’s about the Big Ten Tournament and securing a top-4 bye.”
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Their last first place finish came in 2017.