Indiana faced off against the University of Louisville for the third time this season Sunday. Indiana won the regular season matchup in April, alongside Friday in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament for both teams.
The Hoosiers fell to No. 4 University of Tennessee Saturday in the winners’ bracket of the four-team Knoxville regional, placing them in an elimination game. Indiana again defeated Louisville, 4-3, for the third time this season but lost to Tennessee, 7-3, in the regional final to end its season.
The first inning between Indiana and Louisville was scoreless — the only scoreless first inning in the season’s three matchups between the two schools. The Cardinals went up 2-0 in the second inning. An error from Indiana redshirt junior catcher Lindsey Warick scored the first run, while Louisville outfielder Korbe Otis’ double drove in the second.
The next three innings were scoreless, but the Hoosiers broke their own shutout in the sixth inning. Sophomore first baseman Sarah Stone’s fielder’s choice scored redshirt junior outfielder Cora Bassett. Indiana trailed 2-1 entering the seventh.
After a pair of leadoff singles from freshmen, utility player Avery Parker and outfielder Cassidy Kettleman, junior shortstop Brooke Benson stepped to the plate in the seventh inning and laid down a bunt. Louisville catcher Sarah Gordon’s errant throw went over first baseman Hannah File’s head, allowing Kettleman and Parker to score, giving Indiana a 3-2 lead.
Bassett’s sacrifice fly gave the Hoosiers a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore pitcher Heather Johnson induced a groundout alongside a pair of strikeouts to secure an Indiana victory. After defeating Louisville in the elimination game, Team 50 advanced to the regional final to take on No. 4 Tennessee.
The Volunteers jumped on Johnson from the beginning. Tennessee third baseman Zaida Puni’s two-run blast put the Volunteers up 2-0 in the first inning. The Hoosiers totaled three hits in the bottom of the first but were unable to score any runners.
The following three innings were scoreless until Tennessee blew the game open in the fifth inning off Indiana freshman pitcher Sophie Kleiman. Outfielder Kiki Milloy scored Tennessee’s third run of the ballgame on a wild pitch. Puni’s second home run followed, giving the Volunteers a 4-0 lead. Second baseman Lair Beautae’s sacrifice fly scored Tennessee’s fifth run. That was followed by catcher Giulia Koutsoyanopuls’ two-run single extending the lead to 7-0.
Down to its final three outs, Indiana looked to spark a rally in the final inning. A run-scoring groundout from sophomore outfielder Taylor Minnick cut the deficit to 7-1. Bassett crossed the plate after a wild pitch to add another run. A run-scoring single from Copeland drove in the Hoosiers’ third and final run of the ballgame.
After the season-ending loss, Indiana head coach Shonda Stanton spoke about her team’s journey this season.
“I am super proud to be their coach,” Stanton said postgame. “Team 50 has been on a mission all season long and mission accomplished was to get to the postseason and compete our tails off.
Although Indiana’s season ended in the regional final, the Hoosiers had made their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2011. Team 50 set the program record for the most consecutive wins in a season with 23 this season.
With Brook Benson’s junior season concluding, the infielder praised Indiana fans for their unwavering support throughout the season.
“Seeing our fans and how well they travel, it’s just super fun to see,” Benson said. “To always have them support us is amazing and definitely helps out.”
Taryn Kern’s freshman campaign was one for the record books with her long list of achievements. Kern logged 23 home runs en route to winning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year award, putting the nation on notice.
“For everyone, keep your eye out for Indiana softball because we’re coming next year, we’re coming to get it,” Kern said. “Watch out.”