For the second time this season, Indiana softball played the University of Louisville. Once again, Indiana came away victorious, but Friday’s scoreline was much closer in the first-ever meeting between the two schools in the NCAA Tournament.
Team 50, the No. 2-seed in the Knoxville regional, started on the right foot, taking down the No. 3 Cardinals 4-3. It was the first time in 11 years Indiana made the NCAA Tournament and the first time in 17 seasons the Hoosiers won a postseason game.
When Indiana and Louisville met in the regular season in Bloomington, the Hoosiers led first and never let up the lead. But it was the Cardinals that jumped on top first Friday. Louisville sophomore outfielder Korbe Otis hit a leadoff home run in the top of the first inning against sophomore pitcher Brianna Copeland.
Indiana responded with four unanswered runs in its first three innings at the plate. Run-scoring singles in the first two innings from sophomore utility player Sarah Stone and junior shortstop Brooke Benson respectively gave Team 50 a 2-1 lead.
In the third inning, the Hoosiers put their power on display as Stone and Copeland began the frame with back-to-back solo home runs, padding Indiana’s lead and knocking out Louisville starter, freshman Alyssa Zabala.
Copeland settled down in the circle after allowing hits to the first two Louisville hitters of Friday’s game, pitching the next four innings without giving up a run.
“I still have my defense and I still have my offense to come back me up whenever I make a mistake,” Copeland said postgame Friday.
Indiana did not make an error in the field Friday, and Copeland helped herself out in the circle with her 14th home run of the season. Though, Louisville kept the game close with leadoff solo home runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
With two outs left to get and the top of Louisville’s order up to bat down by just one run in the seventh inning, Indiana head coach Shonda Stanton pulled Copeland and inserted junior Macy Montgomery into the circle.
Montgomery did not appear in the Big Ten Tournament and hadn’t pitched since April 30, Indiana’s series finale victory over Michigan. Montgomery did not look rusty, needing just seven pitches to get the final two hitters to ground out.
Stanton mentioned the team “stayed true to its identity,” which has been the long ball all season. Indiana played to its strength and despite losing 3-2 in the home run category, the Hoosiers were still able to come away with the win.
Indiana won its 43rd game this season and its first postseason game in exactly 17 years. In 2006, the Hoosiers beat Utah 3-0 in the team’s opener of the Austin regional. Indiana lost the next two games and didn't advance past the regional.
Winning the team's opening NCAA Tournament game this year, the Hoosiers will play No. 1-seed University of Tennessee at 1 p.m. Saturday in the winners’ bracket.