No. 2 Indiana softball and No. 7 Penn State will meet in the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight season, this time in the quarterfinals Thursday afternoon. In the opening round Wednesday, the Nittany Lions beat No. 10 Michigan 3-2 on a walk-off throwing error that stemmed from a bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning.
No. 7 Penn State knocked out No. 10 Indiana in last year’s Big Ten Tournament, also via walk-off. The Nittany Lions won 2-1 in extra-innings to end Team 49’s season in East Lansing, Michigan. The two teams also met in the 2019 Big Ten Tournament when the seeds were flipped. No. 7 Indiana defeated No. 10 Penn State 4-2 in Bloomington.
Although Penn State is the seven seed again, No. 2 Indiana is much improved from last season, considering it received a bye to the quarterfinals by finishing in the top four in the standings. Team 50 has won 40 games and rides a nine-game win streak into the postseason.
Indiana went 40-15 and 18-5 in conference play in the regular season, whereas Penn State was 32-15, 11-11 in Big Ten play. Indiana concluded its regular season this past weekend at Andy Mohr Field with a three-game sweep over Michigan State. Penn State took two out of three games against Purdue before beating Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.
Indiana’s offense is statistically the best in the Big Ten, leading the conference in eleven team categories. Team 50 has already broken team single-season records in four offensive categories and is on pace to set new highs in three others.
Freshman infielder Taryn Kern was named Big Ten Freshman and Player of the Year Wednesday by the league after her stellar rookie season donning the Cream and Crimson. Kern broke three individual single-season records as Indiana powered its way to 40 regular-season victories in 2023.
Kern began conference play with an award for the third straight week and ended the year that way. That’s similar to how Indiana won nine straight to open the Big Ten slate and finished with nine consecutive victories, despite a five-game Big Ten losing streak in between.
The Nittany Lions boast the league’s top hitter by batting average in junior infielder Emily Maddock, who slashed .456 with 41 hits, three doubles and 14 runs batted in.
Penn State holds the Big Ten’s lowest team earned run average in the circle at 2.15, mainly due to the duo of fifth-year pitchers Bailey Parshall and Kylee Lingenfelter. Parshall’s 1.46 regular-season ERA was second in the league; Lingenfelter’s 2.13 was seventh.
Indiana and Penn State have not played in 2023 but did play four times in 2022, including the Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions won three of four meetings last year, including two out of three when the schools met in University Park, Pennsylvania, last April.
Indiana leads the all-time series 49-31 against Penn State, excluding the postseason. Team 50 can advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2018 with a win.
First pitch from Eichelberger Field is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on Big Ten Network. The winning team will play Friday at 6 p.m. ET against either No. 3 Minnesota or No. 6 Ohio State.