One weekend ago, Indiana softball lost its fourth game in a row, being swept at home by Nebraska. Team 50 struggled with timely hitting last weekend, but this weekend Indiana went on the road and swept Rutgers.
The Hoosiers won all three games of the weekend series, scoring three times the number of runs the Scarlet Knights did.
After entering the series on a four-game losing streak, Team 50 is now on a three-game winning streak with a sweep of Rutgers in large part due to taking leads before the Scarlet Knights stepped to the plate.
“It comes down to our identity and our offense,” head coach Shonda Stanton said after Sunday’s victory. “I think all three games we scored in the first inning.”
Senior utility player Cora Bassett and freshman second baseman Taryn Kern each were walked by junior pitcher Morgan Smith, allowing sophomore first baseman Sarah Stone to bring two runners in to score with her RBI single.
Rutgers responded in its half of the frame with junior shortstop Kyleigh Sand’s aggressiveness on the basepaths, stealing home immediately after redshirt junior catcher Lindsey Warick fired the ball to second base to try to pick off the runner at second.
After putting up a pair of runs in the first inning, the Hoosiers doubled that in the second, scoring four runs via RBIs by sophomore outfielder Taylor Minnick, Kern and Stone.
The Scarlet Knights cut the deficit to 6-2 in the third inning via a sacrifice fly from senior infielder Payton Lincavage.
Freshman outfielder Cassidy Kettleman launched her first career home run in the fifth inning, extending Indiana’s advantage to five runs. After the victory, Kettleman explained what the home run felt like.
“Honestly off the bat, it was just me sitting there hoping it was going over,” Kettleman said after Friday’s victory. “It felt really good off the bat and just knowing that I could provide in that inning was a really great feeling.”
Rutgers' third and final run came in the sixth after an RBI single from senior outfielder Taylor Fawcett as a scoreless seventh inning gave Indiana a 7-3 victory in the series opener.
Familiarly, Indiana scored early and often in the second game of the series en route to the series-clinching victory. A three run RBI triple from Stone and an RBI single from freshman utility player Avery Parker gave the Hoosiers a 4-0 lead in the opening frame.
Following a scoreless second inning, Indiana added three runs in the third inning with a solo home run from sophomore infielder Brianna Copeland and a sacrifice fly from junior shortstop Brooke Benson. Kettleman came in to score the third run of the inning on the same play after an error was committed by freshman infielder Calista Collins.
The Hoosiers added a pair of runs in the fifth with RBI singles from Kern and Minnick, bringing the lead to 9-0. Sophomore pitcher Heather Johnson held the Scarlet Knights scoreless in the fifth to close out the run-rule victory.
Johnson hurled a complete game shutout, allowing three hits while striking out one batter. Pitching to contact was the name of the game for Johnson as she induced six flyouts and seven groundouts in just 46 total pitches.
Indiana scored in the first inning of each game against Rutgers as Kern belted her 19th home run of the season Sunday. A few batters later, Copeland brought the lead to 2-0 with an RBI double.
After a scoreless second frame, a sacrifice fly from Stone gave the Hoosiers a three-run advantage, but that was a short-lived lead as Rutgers responded in its half of the inning.
Junior outfielder Morgan Smith earned an RBI after being hit by pitch and was followed up by a two-RBI single from redshirt senior catcher Katie Wingert. A sacrifice fly from sophomore infielder Maddie Lawson gave the Scarlet Knights a 4-3 lead after the third.
A scoreless fourth inning was followed by Indiana tying the game in the fifth inning after an RBI groundout from Stone. The Hoosiers regained the lead in the sixth after Kern was hit by pitch, bringing the score to 5-4. Johnson and Copeland combined to hold Rutgers scoreless in the closing innings to give Indiana a series sweep.
Prior to the series in Piscataway, New Jersey, Team 50 stood at 9-5 in Big Ten play but will now return to Bloomington at 12-5, tied for second in the conference with Nebraska and behind No. 21 Northwestern.
“This group has really done an incredible job of just staying the course and not riding the wave, whether it was the win streak or whether it was stubbing our toe the last few weeks,” Stanton said after the series sweep Sunday.
Indiana heads to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to face off against Michigan for its final road series of the program’s 50th season, beginning April 28.
“You gotta feel like we’re back,” an enthusiastic Stanton said after a successful weekend. “We’re back playing the way we play and the way we swing it.”