Just 275 days after losing to Penn State 2-1 in walk-off fashion in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, Indiana softball played its first games of 2023 over the weekend at the National Fastpitch Collegiate Association Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Florida.
Team 50 won both games on Friday to open up the 2023 slate. The first was a 17-5 drubbing of University of Pittsburgh, and the second was a 5-1 win over Prairie View Agriculture & Mechanical University.
On Saturday, Indiana was supposed to play in two more games, but rain canceled the second game against Howard University. Team 50 lost to No. 19 Auburn 9-0 but bounced back Sunday with a 5-1 win over University of South Alabama to finish off a winning weekend.
Here are three things that stood out in Clearwater:
Indiana wasted no time getting the scoring started against Pitt, plating three in the bottom of the first, but other than that, it took Indiana a few innings to get its feet out from underneath it. Indiana was shutout in the only matchup against a top-25 team over the weekend, and in the other two games, it took them until the third and sixth innings to plate a run.
During the team’s preseason media day, senior utility player Cora Bassett and junior infielder Brooke Benson made it clear that this is one of the most athletic teams they have been a part of, and head coach Shonda Stanton has preached the same message. This weekend, several players in the Indiana lineup played more than one position, giving Stanton a lot to figure out with lineup configurations as more tournaments are on the horizon for the rest of February. Bassett and star pitcher sophomore Brianna Copeland are two of those players who played multiple positions.
No-hitter, but no shutout
Speaking of Copeland, in the win over the Prairie View A&M Panthers, she threw her first career no-hitter, striking out a career-high 10 batters in the process. However, a dropped third strike allowed the first Panther baserunner, senior outfielder Taliya Talley, and an error from Copeland herself combined with another wild pitch and a fielder’s choice prevented the shutout. The sophomore from Alabama bounced back and retired the side in order in the top of the seventh inning to shut the door on a historic afternoon, but some early-season issues surfaced that prevented a shutout or even a perfect game.
Indiana is back in Clearwater, Florida starting Thursday for a four-day marquee tournament: the ESPN Clearwater Invitational.