Entering Friday’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal, Minnesota’s fifth-year Autumn Pease carried a stellar 26-6 record in the circle alongside her four Big Ten Pitcher of the Week awards.
Pease’s last loss came against Indiana April 7, but a pair of victories against the Hoosiers April 8 and 9 marked the beginning of her individual 12-game win streak.
Indiana snapped that streak Friday, beating Pease and Minnesota 5-3 to advance to the Big Ten Tournament championship for the first time in program history. Indiana had walked off Penn State Thursday 5-4 to reach the semifinals and face No. 3 Minnesota.
Indiana got off to a quick start in the bottom of the first with a two-run home run from sophomore outfielder Taylor Minnick to take a 2-0 lead. Minnesota quickly responded with one run in the top of the second to cut the deficit in half, but an RBI single in the bottom of the inning from junior shortstop Brooke Benson gave the Hoosiers a 3-1 lead.
Sophomore first baseman Sarah Stone came up big for Indiana against Penn State on Thursday with her walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Stone continued her hot streak with another solo home run in the third inning to give Indiana a 4-1 lead.
After giving up one run on three hits through three innings, Indiana sophomore pitcher Brianna Copeland found herself in a hectic jam in the fourth inning. A pair of walks alongside a single loaded the bases for Minnesota with just one out. As the Golden Gophers looked primed to tie or even take the lead, sophomore pitcher Heather Johnson relieved Copeland.
Johnson induced a pair of fly balls, one a sacrifice fly to cut Indiana’s lead to 4-3, the other being the third out of what could’ve been a game-defining top of the fourth.
After entering the game in a high-leverage situation, Johnson went on to toss 3 2/3 innings allowing no runs or hits on 54 pitches.
Although Copeland was relieved by Johnson in the circle, Indiana’s starting pitcher wasn’t finished making an impact against Minnesota as she launched a solo home run in the sixth inning en route to a 5-3 Indiana victory.
Following Friday’s victory in the semifinal round against Minnesota, Indiana advances to the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the first time in program history. The Hoosiers will face off against No. 1 Northwestern. The Wildcats won the Big Ten regular season title, finishing two games ahead of the Hoosiers. Team 50 didn’t play against Northwestern in the regular season with Saturday’s matchup most likely being the only one this season.
Team 50 is on yet another double-digit win streak as the Hoosiers have now won 11 games in a row. Entering Saturday’s championship game with a 42-15 record, Indiana is destined for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.