Indiana Daily Student

IU softball looks to build on fast start in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

<p>&nbsp;&nbsp;Pitcher Tara Trainer strikes out all three Ohio State batters March 23, 2018.</p>

  Pitcher Tara Trainer strikes out all three Ohio State batters March 23, 2018.

IU softball Coach Shonda Stanton described it as a “huge shot in the arm.”

After a huge opening weekend that resulted in a 6-4 win over then-No. 6 University of Georgia and a perfect 5-0 start, IU earned its first top-25 ranking since May 7, 1996.

The No. 24 Hoosiers will look to build further on the perfect record in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge this weekend on the road in Durham, North Carolina.

IU will take on Duke University and Syracuse University both, twice each.

“Everybody is working so hard and opening weekend is the most special time of the year,” Stanton said. “You always say every year that somebody, some place, is going to do something special, and that somebody was the Indiana Hoosiers down in Boca Raton, and we took care of business and came back a top-25 team.”

IU went 1-3 against Boston College and the Georgia Institute of Technology in last year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The lone win for IU in the series came against Boston College, 8-3 — its first victory on the season.

Coming into the series, Syracuse is 1-3, but two of those losses came against then-No. 4 University of Oklahoma. The lone victory came in the last game of the weekend over Grand Canyon University.

Syracuse junior Alexa Romero will see a majority of the load in the circle. Romero is fourth all time in program history with 419 strikeouts and fifth with nine career shutouts. She led the nation in 2018 with 10.9 strikeouts per seven innings and was named a 2019 preseason All-American.

Duke comes into the weekend with a better record than Syracuse at 3-2. The pair of losses came against then-No. 9 University of South Carolina and then-No. 3 University of Washington.

Sophomores Amelia Wiercioch and Brianna Butler each saw over 10 innings of action in the first five games, but Wiercioch led the team with 154.2 innings pitched last season.

“Duke and Syracuse are good teams, they’re going to have some good pitching,” sophomore Grayson Radcliffe said. “It’s another opportunity for us to go out there and continue to get after it.”

Despite the standout in the pitching department, Syracuse struggled at the plate last weekend as there wasn’t a single player that batted .300 or more.

Conversely, Duke boasts five players that hold batting averages over .300. Sophomore Jameson Kavel and freshman Kristina Foreman lead the way with averages of .462 and .432. Freshman Caroline Jacobsen is another name to watch in the lineup as she has a .385 batting average with a pair of home runs and six RBIs.

“Any game is a game that we can win,” sophomore Grayson Radcliffe said. “This weekend, playing teams from the ACC, it’s a conference that is very competitive with us. It’s a conference that we just want to go out and take every game that we can.”

With at least a 57 percent chance of rain in Durham on Saturday and Sunday, it’s in question how the games will be played this weekend. Despite the weather, the Hoosiers have another chance to continue building on the hot start to the season.

“I’m more worried about the weather so we can get all four ball games in because we have an opportunity to do something special this weekend against both Duke and Syracuse,” Stanton said. “The ACC has continued to get better. It’s great competition, and I’m excited to get back to battle.”

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