Indiana softball is set to return to Clearwater on Thursday, competing in the marquee ESPN Clearwater Classic. The Hoosiers finished 3-1 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic on Feb. 12 in Clearwater, Florida.
While the Hoosiers faced quality competition last weekend, their upcoming five games are one of the toughest stretches of the season with four of the five teams being ranked.
The Hoosiers will play against No. 22 Louisiana (4-0) at 1 p.m. on Thursday followed by a matchup with Mississippi State (3-2) at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
On Saturday, Indiana faces off against No. 4 Arkansas (5-0) at 1 p.m., quickly followed up by a matchup with No. 12 Alabama (2-1) at 6 p.m. On Sunday, the Hoosiers' final day in Clearwater, they face off against No. 15 Arizona (5-0) at noon.
The defense will be crucial this weekend, and the Hoosiers will need strong showings from the whole pitching staff, specifically sophomore Brianna Copeland and sophomore Heather Johnson.
Copeland is coming off her first career no-hitter which came against Prairie View A&M University on Feb. 10. If the Hoosiers can get strong performances from Copeland and Johnson, the offense will be set up nicely to hang with teams like Arizona and Arkansas, which have shown their ability to score runs.
The offense’s ability to string hits together to score runs will be key as they struggled on Feb. 11 against No. 21 Auburn, the only ranked team Indiana has faced so far this season. The Hoosiers totaled only four hits and seven baserunners against the Tigers.
This weekend, ESPN+ will stream Indiana’s matchups against Arkansas and Arizona. ESPNU will be televising the Hoosiers’ games against Louisiana and Alabama. The SEC Network will carry their game against Mississippi State.