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IU softball to play in largest ever Big Ten/ACC challenge


Then-freshman IU softball outfielder Taylor Lambert gets tagged out at the plate as she attempts to put IU's first points on the board April 18, 2018. IU will play in the Big Ten/ACC challenge Friday and Saturday against Duke University and Syracuse University in Durham, North Carolina. IDS file photo: Bobby Goddin

IU softball will head to Durham, North Carolina, for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this weekend with a clean slate.

After struggling defensively and dropping its first three games in the Black and Gold tournament, head coach Shonda Stanton said the team isn’t worried about how it will bounce back.

“It’s just one weekend, so it’s not a how it’s just what you do,” Stanton said. “You have to bounce back pitch to pitch, inning to inning, so it’s not a very foreign concept for softball players.”

IU had 13 total errors last weekend, a number Stanton attributes more to the psychological side of the game than the physical.

“This game is mental,” Stanton said. “A really heavy dose of mental capacity and resilience. Physically, we have the ability to be better than what we showed last weekend.”

The two wins that capped off last weekend will provide IU with a springboard for this weekend’s challenge.

“Those were really good games for us both offensively and defensively,” senior pitcher Emily Goodin said. “Obviously we still have small adjustments to make, but I think we have good momentum coming into this weekend.”

IU will start the weekend Friday against Duke University. It will then have a doubleheader Saturday starting with Syracuse University and ending with Duke. The Hoosiers will wrap up the weekend Sunday with a second game against the Orange.

This year is the fifth Big Ten/ACC challenge. It’s the largest one yet, featuring 10 schools from each conference playing at five campuses. In last season’s challenge, IU was one of four schools to go undefeated, helping the Big Ten win the challenge 23-13.

IU swept the challenge last season, beating Duke and Syracuse twice each. The weekend helped the Hoosiers improve to 9-0, moving them closer to a new school record for the best start to the season. IU would win five more games, setting the record with a 14-0 start. 

In the first game against Duke, then-senior Tara Trainer led IU to a 3-0 victory, going perfect until a Duke batter reached on an error to lead off the seventh. 

In the nightcap against Syracuse on Feb. 15, 2019, then-junior Emily Goodin earned the win in a 6-5 victory. The next morning brought another Trainer-led victory over Duke, this time 3-1.

On Sunday, the final day of the challenge, IU earned a second Goodin victory over Syracuse, 5-1.

The two games against Duke last season were the first between the programs. IU will be more prepared for this weekend after losing to Duke 8-2 on Friday at the Black and Gold Tournament.

“It helps us prepare a lot,” Goodin said. “We have film we can watch on them from previous games, and last year as well. Coach (Chanda) Bell keeps stats and notes and everything, so we have all that to look at and go to.”

Rutgers will be in Durham as well. The two schools won't face each otherbecause no team will play against another from their conference.

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