IU softball coach Shonda Stanton had almost no voice left in her.
Nearly three hours after a 6-4 statement victory over No. 6 University of Georgia to cap off a perfect 5-0 start to the season, Stanton struggled to talk with the voice she had left, but her excitement about the weekend was evident.
As part of the Florida Atlantic University “First Pitch” Classic in Boca Raton, Florida, IU defeated the University of Virginia, Bethune-Cookman University, St. John’s University and Florida Atlantic University by a combined score of 26-3.
In the final game of the weekend, IU faced perhaps is biggest challenge of the season against Georgia.
“As a coach you always want your team to get out to a fast start,” Stanton said. “We talked earlier this week about owning moments and that’s what we did this weekend.”
The Hoosiers were down early to the Bulldogs.
In the third inning, Georgia got out to a 2-0 lead behind a pair of back-to-back RBI singles. Despite the deficit, IU responded in the next frame.
Sophomore Grayson Radcliffe and junior Bella Norton strung together ensuing hits to give IU a pair of base runners with no outs. Then, sophomore Maddie Westmoreland laid down a bunt to bring in the first run.
After recording their first out, the Hoosiers got another bunt from sophomore Annika Baez. Her single brought in another run.
A Georgia fielding error at the plate brought in a third run for the Hoosiers.
“Our pressure offensively on the base path is what really opened things up for us,” Stanton said. “We weren’t stringing a lot of hits together, but we were able to put on pressure with our aggressive style of play.”
With IU maintaining a 4-2 lead heading into the sixth inning after a Westmoreland RBI single, Georgia had a chance to tie up the game.
Having cut the lead to one, Georgia appeared to have evened the game when a fly-out to center field, allowing the tying run to come.
Despite the initial call, the third base umpire overturned it — claiming that the runner never tagged up at third base before making her way to home.
With IU up by one run heading into the final inning, Radcliffe notched a two-run home run to put the team ahead 6-3 with just three outs remaining before pulling off the upset.
“For her to have that moment against Georgia, you’re excited when your kids have moments,” Stanton said. “She’s special, she’s been a great addition.”
Senior Tara Trainer pitched all seven innings for the Hoosiers, picking up her third victory of the weekend. Trainer also moved to third all-time in program history with 578 strikeouts during a relief appearance against Florida Atlantic
“Tara was special,” Stanton said. “Coming in last night to close the door and today had an All-American performance against one of the better hitting teams in the country.”
Last season, it took 24 games for IU to find its fifth victory. This year, IU has opened the 2019 season 5-0 for the first time since 1990.
Coming into the season, there were plenty of questions as to whether last season’s third-place finish in the Big Ten was a fluke.
Six Big Ten teams at least received votes in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and USA Softball preseason Top-25 poll. IU was not one of those teams.
“Going 5-0 on the weekend makes us stand out a bit because it’s something a lot of teams probably haven’t done,” Trainer said. “I think people will start keeping an eye out for us.”