Despite being swept by No. 10 Northwestern at home, the Indiana softball team will take away a few positives from the weekend. Among those was Hoosier senior pitcher Natalie Foor, who made her first start of the season after dealing with an injury that forced her to miss two months.
Head coach Shonda Stanton said Foor would be out indefinitely back in an interview on Feb. 11, with no clear return date.
As Foor started to make progress in her recovery, she came in as a relief pitcher to get useful game reps in. Her first appearance of the season came against Kent State on March 20. She pitched 0.1 innings, allowing three hits, two runs and one earned run.
“I always knew that my opportunity would come and had to stay ready,” Foor said. “I couldn’t get down on myself if I wasn’t getting the result or innings I wanted.”
She continued in that relief role, pitching 1.2 innings at Penn State on April 15, two innings against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Wednesday, and then 0.1 innings against No. 10 Northwestern on Saturday. On Sunday, though, Foor started for the Hoosiers and pitched 6.1 innings, throwing three strikeouts in an 11-3 loss to the Wildcats.
“I was just so happy to be out there,” Foor said. “After going through injuries, you look at the game differently.”
Although Foor had a good appearance in the circle and went the distance, the Hoosiers’ defense wasn't able to clean up on errors throughout the series. Indiana had a total of nine errors across its three games against Northwestern.
The Hoosiers were shut down in the first game on Friday, as junior catcher Lindsey Warick hit a home run in the bottom of the second inning for the team’s only run of the game.
In the second game of the series, Indiana trailed 3-1 in the bottom of the second before sophomore right fielder Cora Bassett hit a game-tying double. Graduate student Grayson Radcliffe then hit a single to give Indiana the lead.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Bassett hit a solo home run and freshman first baseman Brianna Copeland hit a two-run RBI double to extend the lead to 7-3.
However, a three-run home run from Northwestern senior first baseman Nikki Cuchran and a solo shot from first-year second baseman Grace Nieto allowed Northwestern to tie the game and force extra innings.
In the top of the ninth inning, Northwestern scored six more runs to extend its lead to 13-7. Indiana could only muster up one run in the bottom of the ninth before losing the series with one game to play.
The Hoosiers’ offense didn’t do any favors for its pitching staff aside from the second game. Although senior designated player Brittany Ford hit a home run in the bottom of the second inning in the series finale on Sunday, Indiana left 10 of 24 runners throughout the series on-base on Sunday.
Indiana’s inconsistency remains an issue for the program, but Foor’s start in game three will give the team confidence as it prepares for Purdue on Tuesday.
“I’m just so proud of Natalie,” Stanton said. “She’s had injuries throughout her career and the road has not gone as anticipated, but the way she has responded makes me incredibly proud as coach.”
Indiana will face in-state rival Purdue at Andy Mohr Field for a doubleheader on Tuesday. The first game will start at 5 p.m., while the second game will start at 7:30 p.m.