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No. 22 IU softball takes on Ohio State to begin Big Ten play



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The IU softball team awaits Grayson Radcliffe on March 17 after she hits a grand slam against Saint Francis University. IU will play against Ohio State from Friday to Sunday. Sarah Zygmuntowski Buy Photos

IU softball got out to a historic 25-6 start during nonconference play, but as Big Ten play gets underway, it will only get tougher from here.

With 10 Big Ten teams currently ranked among the top-100 in the RPI, this year’s conference schedule figures to be a dogfight from start to finish.

IU travel to Columbus, Ohio, this weekend for a three-game series against Ohio State.

The Buckeyes look to improve on their 15-9 record with a balanced attack that includes a pair of offensive standouts in the middle of their batting order and a pitching staff that has combined for a 1.77 earned run average thus far.

Ohio State shortstop Lilli Piper, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, is sure to be a handful for IU all weekend. In 23 starts this season, the senior has tallied 25 hits and is a perfect 9-for-9 in stolen base attempts.

Another Buckeye to watch is senior infielder Emily Clark, who has a .397 batting average and 23 runs batted in this season.

Getting the ball to start game one, opposite of IU senior Tara Trainer, will likely be senior Morgan Ray. Ohio State will lean on Ray’s 1.44 earned run average and 73 strikeouts through 72.2 innings pitched to suppress IU’s offense.

For the Hoosiers, Trainer and junior Emily Goodin figure to receive most of the pitching workload this weekend, with freshman Natalie Foor next in line if needed. Junior catcher Bella Norton will also look to build on a five-hit, seven-RBI performance in the Hoosier Classic.

“I like our group and what’s happened this season so far," IU Head Coach Shonda Stanton said. "We’ve played six weekends, and every weekend we’ve come away with a winning record. We suffered some losses that we wouldn’t have liked, but we continue to fight and continue to bounce back."

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