Las Cruces, N.M. -In what amounted to the rubber game of the New Mexico State Tournament Sunday morning, Indiana (3-2) played tremendous softball and defeated Bowling Green, 8-3. After winning its two opening games on Friday vs. San Jose State and Eastern Illinois before dropping decisions to Marshall and Southwest Texas State during Saturday's action, the Hoosiers bounced back today and played their most complete game of the tournament today, outhitting the Falcons, 10-6, while committing only one error.
Junior Heather Stillians (1-1) and senior catcher Stormy Hanson provided the fireworks for the Hoosiers as Stillians hit a three-run home run in the top of the third inning, which gave IU a 4-1 lead, and Hanson increased IU's lead to 5-2 with a solo slam in the top of the fifth. Stillians earned the win on the mound for the Hoosiers as she pitched the first four innings of the contest before giving way to sophomore Katie Witham. Stillians allowed four hits and three runs, only one of which was earned, while walking two and striking out one, while Witham allowed no earned runs in three innings pitched extending her consecutive innings without an earned run to 20.
Senior pitcher McKenna Houle opened in the circle for the Fighting Falcons and retired the first two batters she faced before Hanson continued her torrid pace as she recorded an infield single on a sharply hit ball to second base.
With Stillians in the circle, Bowling Green had a runner at first with one out in the second inning when IU shortstop Kristine Dugan absolutely robbed shortstop Libby Voshell of a base hit deep in the hole behind second base and forced the lead runner at second base. Stillians struck out cleanup hitter Gina Rango to end the inning.
Both pitchers cruised through the second inning, with only IU's Abby Stark drawing a walk. With one out in the top of third, first baseman Valerie White doubled to the centerfield wall and second baseman Ashley Griffiths doubled down the left field line to give the Hoosiers a 1-0 lead. During a walk by Hanson, Griffiths advanced to third base on a wild pitch and both scored on a home run to centerfield by Stillians. The blast by Stillians forced Houle out of the game. Junior Jody Johnson replaced Houle, who allowed four hits and four earned runs, while walking two and striking out one, in 2.2 innings pitched.
Bowling Green bounced back in the bottom of the third inning. With one out, second baseman Marla Murphy reached on a walk and centerfielder Kandice Machain followed with a single. With runners on first and second and two outs, Voshell singled deep in the hole between shortstop and third base but Dugan saved a run by keeping the ball in the infield. The next hitter Gina Rango hit a ball up the middle and Dugan again made an outstanding play to get her glove on the ball but her backhanded flip to Griffiths at second base was wide of the bag and both Murphy and Machain scored to draw the Falcons to within two runs, 4-2.
Indiana increased its lead to 5-2 in the top of the fifth inning as Hanson hit her first home run of the season, a blast over the left field fence.
With no outs in the bottom of the fifth inning, Machain doubled to centerfield and Katie Witham, who was playing right field, immediately relieved Stillians in the circle. A groundout by first baseman Candace Fenton advanced Machain to third base and a sharply hit single to the left of Stillians at third base by shortstop Libby Voshell scored Machain from third. Witham retired the next two hitters to end the inning.
Indiana extended its lead to 7-3 with two runs in the bottom of the top of the sixth inning on run-scoring singles by Katie Joy and Heather Suca. Johnson, who allowed five hits and three runs in three innings pitched, gave way to Liz Vrabel during the inning.
Stark provided a run-scoring double in the top of the seventh to push Indiana's lead to 8-3.
Indiana will next be in action when they travel to Tampa, Fla. for the South Florida Tournament, Feb. 21-23. IU will take on Maryland, Hofstra, Seton Hall, South Florida and Radford at the tournament.