For the first time since 1999, Indiana softball faced off against the University of Tennessee. This time, in the NCAA Tournament Saturday with advancing to the Knoxville regional final on the line.
Indiana, however, was run-ruled 9-1. As a result, the Hoosiers will play the University of Louisville Sunday. The loser will be eliminated, while the winner goes on to play Tennessee in the regional finals.
With Team 50 looking for its second consecutive victory to open the NCAA Tournament, freshman second baseman Taryn Kern launched her 23rd home run of the season to give Indiana a 1-0 lead in the opening inning.
Sophomore Brianna Copeland started in the circle for the Hoosiers looking for her 23rd victory of the season. Tennessee center fielder Kiki Milloy blasted her NCAA-leading 24th home run of the season to tie the ballgame at one apiece in the bottom of the first inning.
Tennessee third baseman Zaida Puni’s base hit was followed up by Copeland striking out a pair of Volunteers. As Copeland was just one out away from limiting the damage in the opening frame, Tennessee shortstop Mackenzie Donihoo went deep in the first pitch of the at-bat.
Copeland eventually got that third out of the inning with another strikeout. After a quick start with Kern’s home run and the Hoosiers taking an early lead, the Volunteers led 3-1 after the first inning and never looked back.
Milloy didn’t stay at her NCAA-leading mark of 24 home runs for long, sending yet another deep fly ball over the wall in right field to extend the Volunteers’ lead to 5-1 in the second inning After what seemed to be a promising start, Indiana found themselves trailing by four runs in just the second inning with an outburst of three Tennessee home runs.
Although the third inning was scoreless, it didn’t go without controversy. A trio of Hoosiers — senior outfielder Cora Bassett, Kern and sophomore first baseman Sarah Stone — drew walks against Tennessee starting pitcher Ashley Rogers.
As Copeland stepped to the plate as the game-tying run with two outs and the bases loaded, the game proceeded to go under a rain delay. The decision was made by the umpiring crew. Indiana head coach Shonda Stanton protested, standing in front of the tarp.
After the five-hour and 14-minute rain delay, the game resumed. Copeland stepped to the plate and struck out, stranding three Indiana baserunners, squandering what turned out to be the Hoosiers’ last baserunners of the game.
Tennessee left-fielder Rylie West’s grand slam put the game out of reach in the fourth inning. Down eight runs entering the fifth, the Hoosiers needed to score to extend the game. Junior shortstop Brooke Benson, Bassett and Kern went down in order, ending the game.
Indiana dropped its second game of the NCAA Tournament in a 9-1 run-rule loss in five innings against Tennessee. Team 50 now stands at 43-17, looking to dodge elimination Sunday against Louisville at 2 p.m. — a team they played Friday. The third matchup of the season between the Hoosiers and the Cardinals will be televised on ESPN+.
Follow reporters Austin Platt (@AustinPlatter) and Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) for updates throughout the softball season.