Indiana Daily Student

IU softball starts season Friday against Nebraska in Florida

<p>Then-freshman Juvia Davis is greeted March 17, 2019, by her teammates at home plate after hitting a grand slam for the Hoosiers. IU softball starts its 2021 season this weekend in Leesburg, Florida. </p>

Then-freshman Juvia Davis is greeted March 17, 2019, by her teammates at home plate after hitting a grand slam for the Hoosiers. IU softball starts its 2021 season this weekend in Leesburg, Florida.

IU softball starts its 2021 season this weekend with three double-headers in Leesburg, Florida. 

The team hasn’t seen the field since March 12, 2020, when they defeated the University of Toledo 3-0 in the Spring Games tournament in Madeira Beach, Florida. According to the RPI rankings in games through March 8th, 2020, the Hoosiers were ranked No. 52 overall. IU finished 2020 with a 12-9 record, but didn’t play a single Big Ten opponent because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This season, the Big Ten has implemented a 44-game conference-only schedule. The entire senior class from last year – infielders Katie Lacefield and Annika Baez, outfielders Taylor Lambert, Gabbi Jenkins and Grayson Radcliffe, catcher Bella Norton and pitcher Emily Goodin – is returning. The Hoosiers also picked up infielder Micah Schroeder as a graduate transfer from Dartmouth College. IU is projected to finish fourth in the conference behind Minnesota, Northwestern and Michigan, according to D1Softball.com.

IU’s first of three double-headers this weekend will be against Nebraska at 10 a.m. Friday. The second game will follow at 12:30 p.m.

The Cornhuskers are composed mostly of freshmen and seniors. Offensively, the team is led by senior outfielder Tristen Edwards, the Big Ten's returning leader in hits, doubles, home runs, runs and total bases. Edwards is also one of three Cornhuskers in the 40-40 club, having obtained 40 career doubles and 40 career home runs. The lineup also includes senior infielder Cam Ybarra, who had nine doubles during the shortened 2020 season. 

On Saturday, IU continues with more games, playing Wisconsin at 4:15 p.m. The Badgers lost lots of talent after right-handed ace Kaitlyn Menz and offensive threat Kayla Konwent graduated. Wisconsin still has in-state recruit senior Haley Hestekin, who pitched five shutouts and nine complete games through the 2019 season. One positive addition to Wisconsin’s program is top 50 national recruit freshman pitcher Gabi Salo, who had a 65-8 record, 824 career strikeouts, and 0.429 ERA while at Escanaba High School in Escanaba, Michigan. 

The team wraps the weekend up against No. 24 Minnesota at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, followed by a second match at 6 p.m.

Golden Gophers star pitcher and all-around talent senior Amber Fiser used her extra year of eligibility and enters the 2021 season with more career wins than any other pitcher in Division I. Minnesota’s offense will rely on utility player junior Natalie DenHartog, who led the team in most offensive categories last season.

CORRECTION: Taylor Lambert and Kayla Konwent were misidentified in a previous version of this article.

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