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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports softball

Indiana softball turned into the Cinderella team in Big Ten Tournament, ultimately falls to Michigan

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Indiana softball started Big Ten conference play 0-6, losing back-to-back weekend series. It was far from the Hoosiers' 18-5 conference record in 2023 — one of its best seasons. 

As the conference play unfolded, the Hoosiers found their rhythm and tapped into their strong team chemistry, which became a critical factor in their victories.  

This team's central theme is never giving up, and they showed that throughout the Big Ten tournament.  

After starting strong against Purdue in the opening round, the Hoosiers were up against the top-seed Northwestern on May 9, which happened to be the same team that sent them home in the Big Ten title game last season.  

Northwestern struck first, but the Hoosiers bounced back and carried a strong lead for the rest of the game. Freshman utility player Alex Cooper hit a solo home run and Hoosiers held firm in the batter's box to draw walks.  

Freshman infielder Aly VanBrandt hit an RBI single to give the Hoosiers a commanding lead. The Wildcats attempted to threaten, but Indianas’ defense closed out and won 4-3.  

The Hoosiers took on Nebraska in the semifinal, where they trailed 3-0 for most of the game. But Indiana rallied to force extra innings after making a run that began in the top of the fourth courtesy of a home run by junior infielder Sarah Stone.  

The Hoosiers’ run continued, leading to a game-tying solo home run by Cooper. When the Hoosiers were up on offense at the start of the eighth, they erupted for six runs, turning an extra-innings tight game into a 9-3 blowout victory.  

Indiana, the No. 8 seed in the tournament, faced No. 2 Michigan on May 11 in the Big Ten Tournament final.  

Senior outfielder Aaliyah Andrews hit an RBI double to put the Hoosiers on the board first in the top of the second inning. 

Michigan tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Wolverines continued their run with an Indiana error bringing in two runs and took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning.  

Once again, Indiana was in the position to make a comeback. Andrews hit a single up the middle while Cooper walked to put two runners on. But ultimately, the Hoosiers could not execute and score. Michigan won 3-1.  

In the circle, Copeland only allowed two hits and one earned run. Andrews was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate. While it was not how the Hoosiers hoped the tournament would end, five players were named to the All-Tournament Team: Andrews, Benson, Cooper, Copeland and VanBrandt. Andrews and VanBrandt lead the Hoosiers in batting average, both at .370.  

Now, Indiana (40-18) looks to the NCAA Tournament, where it will compete in regionals. The Hoosiers are among the last four teams to make the tournament. This marks the Hoosiers’ second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. 

The Hoosiers will start the tournament against the University of Washington in the Columbia Regional at 3 p.m. Friday at the University of Missouri. Regionals are double-elimination, which means that the remaining team in the four-team pod in the Hoosiers' region will then proceed to the Super Regionals. The other schools in the regional include the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska Omaha.  

Last season, Team 50 was in the same position. However, it fell in the regional final to the University of Tennessee. Now, Team 51 has a chance to take it a step further this season and advance to super regionals. 

Follow reporters Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and Sam Elster (@samelster1) for updates throughout the Indiana softball season.

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