Following a three-game sweep of Michigan State that saw IU score 34 runs and trail for a total of just four innings, its confidence has been restored.
Now IU must turn its attention toward a much tougher opponent.
This weekend IU will travel north to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where a three-game set against No. 23 Michigan awaits it.
Headed by Carol Hutchins, the second-winningest coach in NCAA history, Michigan has had a stranglehold on the Big Ten for nearly three decades. Under Hutchins’ watch, the Wolverines have won nine Big Ten tournament titles and 19 Big Ten regular season championships, including the most recent one in 2018.
“Hutch is a legend of the sport, and it’s an honor every single time I get to sit in a dugout opposite of her,” IU Head Coach Shonda Stanton said.
IU is looking to put an end to Michigan's reign of dominance and that could start Friday evening.
But it won’t be an easy task as the Wolverines are currently red-hot, having won their last 12 games, inc uding a 6-0 start to conference play.
The Hoosiers’ pitching staff looks up for the task, as it returned to top form last weekend with senior Tara Trainer earning her NCAA-leading 19th victory, and junior Emily Goodin tossing her second complete-game shutout of the season. The two upperclassmen will need to sustain that momentum into this weekend in order to neutralize a pesky Michigan lineup.
Carrying much of the Wolverine’s offensive load this season has been the trio of Alex Sobczak, Faith Canfield and Lexie Blair. Canfield, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, leads Michigan in runs scored and is second on the team in hits with 42, only outmatched by Blair’s 44 hits. In the power department, both Sobczak and Blair represent Michigan’s most potent hitters, as the two lead the team with a .731 slugging percentage and a .600 slugging percentage respectively.
This is potentially worrisome for IU as Trainer has given up 12 home runs already this season. Locating pitches for the senior is going to be key to IU’s success this weekend.
Where Michigan does the bulk of its damage, however, is in the pitching circle. The staff's’ 1.93 earned run average and 3.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio rank in the top 25 nationally. Sophomore Meghan Beaubien and freshman Alex Storako figure to handle most or all of the pitching duties against IU.
The upcoming road series will be the toughest IU has played this year, so it’s going to take a near flawless weekend to return home with a series victory. But after winning one game against Michigan last season, IU has shown that its capable of a strong showing against one of the Big Ten’s best teams.
“We just have to build off of our great weekend against Michigan State and bring that same mindset against Michigan,” IU senior Sarah Galovich said. “If we can do that, I think we definitely have a chance to compete with them.”
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