The offense for IU softball came alive Saturday, outscoring Maryland 21-5 in a crucial series victory.
By winning two of the three games, IU reached 31 wins for the first time since the 2011 season, when it finished with a record of 37-18.
It was an important weekend for both teams. For Maryland, it was a chance to gain key conference road wins against a top-50 opponent. For IU, a series loss would have been detrimental to its Ratings Percentage Index rank and could have hurt its chances at earning an NCAA tournament at-large bid.
Prior to playing Maryland, a tough 12-game stretch saw IU go 4-8 with six of those losses being decided by two runs or less. It’s what prompted IU Head Coach Shonda Stanton to address her team on the importance of being more opportunistic following back-to-back close losses against then-No. 23 Michigan.
The Hoosiers sure looked like they took Stanton’s message to heart against the Terrapins.
In game one, sophomore Maddie Westmoreland continued her hot streak, giving IU an early first-inning lead with a two-run single. IU tacked on three more runs in the second inning, taking advantage of a Maryland fielding error which loaded the bases and set up sophomore Grayson Radcliffe to hit a bases-clearing double.
After adding another pair of runs to put the Hoosiers up 7-0, freshman Brittany Ford was called upon for a pinch hitting opportunity, just her 14th at-bat of the season. With two runners aboard, Ford laced a run-scoring hit down the right field line that put the final touches on an 8-0 run-rule victory over Maryland.
“One of the greatest things we love as coaches is to be able to watch a kid have her moment,” Stanton said. “Brittany Ford really clutched up there and it was nice to see her smile coming around second.”
The roles were reversed in game two as it was Maryland that jumped out to a first-inning lead, tagging IU junior pitcher Emily Goodin for three runs.
A spirited comeback effort from the Hoosiers saw them plate two runs in the fourth inning, cutting the deficit to just one. In the seventh inning, down to IU’s final two outs, Westmoreland sent a double to left field that looked sure to tie the game, but Radcliffe was thrown out at home plate. Maryland defeated IU 4-3 to even up the series.
The loss seemed to leave a sour taste in IU’s mouth as its bats came out with a vengeance for the rubber match.
A two-run home run from Radcliffe, her team-leading seventh home run this season, in the first inning began a domino effect for the Hoosiers. Up 5-0 heading into the fourth inning, IU continued its onslaught plating five more runs on four hits. IU freshman pitcher Taylor Askland made her first appearance of the season in the fifth inning as she shut the door on an eventual 10-1 win and series victory.
“The goal is always to take the series and I think the good thing is you get a little greedy and it’s never enough and you want more,” Stanton said. “But on the whole, really pleased with our ballclub to be able to bounce back from that first loss and we had some big moments from a lot of different kids.”
Up next, the Hoosiers travel north to Madison, Wisconsin, to take on No. 25 Wisconsin.
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