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IU softball looks to make up ground in Big Ten standings against Purdue


The IU softball team celebrates as Grayson Radcliffe returns back to home base March 31 after hitting a home run in the second game of a double header versus Michigan State University. IU will play the University of Michigan on April 5-7. Colin Kulpa

IU softball has had one of the toughest conference schedules this season, and while there have been plenty of missed opportunities to gain key wins, IU is still in the Big Ten mix.

Currently, IU sits eighth in conference standings with a 3-6 record, but given that all six of its losses have come against Ohio State and Michigan, second and fifth in the standings respectively, there’s still plenty of time for IU to make up ground in the Big Ten.

On Wednesday night, IU welcomes Purdue to Andy Mohr Field for a doubleheader.

The in-state rivals have had similar seasons thus far. The Boilermakers are 4-5 in conference play, just one spot ahead of the Hoosiers in standings, and hold a 27-14 overall record compared to the Hoosiers’ 28-13 start to this season.

However, what separates the two teams is their position within the RPI rankings, where IU comes in at No. 39 while Purdue is down to No. 81. Purdue’s 1-8 record on the road is a major part of its low RPI rank.

Purdue doesn’t have many All-Big Ten or All-America players that can shoulder a large load. Instead, the Boilermakers rely heavily on quality defense and an underrated lineup that’s capable of scoring double-digit runs.

Anchored by senior Jenny Behan, a first team All-American in 2018, Purdue employs an aggressive yet disciplined approach at the plate. The team's 138 walks are tied for third-best in the Big Ten, while its 311 runs are second to just Illinois’ 316 runs.

“They’re playing really well." IU Head Coach Shonda Stanton said. "They hit the ball really well, so it’s going to be a great matchup."

Conversely, Purdue’s offense doesn’t generate much power besides Behan’s team-leading nine home runs. On the whole, its 24 home runs rank third-worst in the conference while its 49 double are the middle of the pack.

The pitching circle is where IU has the biggest advantage over Purdue. Both IU senior Tara Trainer and junior Emily Goodin have sub-two earned run averages, good for top ten among Big Ten pitchers. IU’s 310 strikeouts still continue to pace the conference as well and should be able to exploit Purdue’s tendencies.

Meanwhile, the Boilermakers haven’t been able to find much continuity within its pitching staff as it has thrown six different pitchers in the circle this season. Purdue’s top two arms, Sydney Bates and Kaitlynn Moody, sport earned run averages north of 3.40, adding to a poor 4.29 team earned run average.

Last Sunday, IU’s offense tagged No. 23 Michigan’s dominant pitching for 10 hits and six runs on the day, something it will look to carry over into Wednesday. Sophomores Maddie Westmoreland and Grayson Radcliffe were the Hoosiers’ most productive hitters all weekend and will be looked at for an offensive spark.

Stanton has been known to shuffle around the batting order to get the most out of her team as possible, which could be a key strategy as IU tries to gain some crucial conference wins in the coming weeks, starting with Purdue on Wednesday.

“It’s time to turn the page and own the moments,” Stanton said. “We look forward to being home and getting after it.”

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