Terre Haute, Ind. -- Nothing is routine for the Indiana softball team. Under the direction of first-year head coach Sara Hayes, three run deficits late in games don't necessarily lead to losses and four-run advantages aren't always safe. Both of those scenarios proved true today at Price Field on the campus of Indiana State University as the Hoosiers overcame a 4-1 deficit to win game one, 6-4 in nine innings, yet returned the favor in the nightcap. In game two, the Hoosiers led 7-3 after 4 1/2 innings but failed to hold the lead as ISU tied the game 7-7. The score remained that way until the top of the eighth inning as the Hoosiers exploded for eight runs and seven hits behind the strength of two-run home runs by freshman Lauren Hines and senior Katie Joy. The blast to centerfield was the first of Joy's career. In today's first game, she came within inches of a home run on a drive that hit off the top of the outfield wall.
In all, the Hoosiers (12-12) and Sycamores (6-15) played a total of 17 innings on the scoreboard and well over five hours on the game clock as the first contest lasted nearly three hours.
"Wow, that was a long day," said Hayes. "We battled though. We had decent pitching and defense but I thought we were great offensively. The girls are starting to believe in themselves and are learning how to persevere."
In the opener, Indiana trailed 4-1 heading into the fifth inning but senior Stormy Hanson's three run blast off of Sycamores reliever Emily Germer, who entered the game to face the IU designated player, tied the contest at 4-4. Junior third baseman Kristine Dugan provided the winning margin for the Hoosiers as she hit a two-run home run narrowly inside the third base foul pole to give the Hoosiers a 6-4 advantage. Senior Katie Witham (4-6) earned the win for the Hoosiers as she started the game, was later replaced for 3 2/3 innings by freshman Megan Roark, and then reentered the game with two outs in the sixth inning.
Witham allowed seven hits and four earned runs, while walking none and striking out one in 5 1/3 innings pitched. All four runs were surrendered during her first stint on the mound. Valerie White recorded three hits for the Hoosiers and Joy notched two hits, including a double in the top of the second inning. Roark pitched a total of 3 2/3 innings and allowed only two hits and no earned runs. She struck out five and walked only one.
In the nightcap, Indiana scored three runs in the top of the second inning, only to see the Sycamores tie the game with two runs in the bottom of the second and a single run in the bottom of the third. The Hoosiers scored four runs in the top of the fifth inning against freshman starter Sammi Whitcomb, who allowed 14 hits and seven earned runs in 7 2/3 innings, only to see the Sycamores return the favor in the bottom half of the inning.
The uniqueness of the today's first game had a lot to do with both team's relief pitchers. With the bases loaded and only one out in the bottom of the second inning, Hayes replaced Witham, who started the game, with Roark and the Hoosier freshman was greeted with a three-run double by senior Sarah Lemond to give the Sycamores a 4-0 lead. After surrendering the double, Roark faced the minimum number of batters over the next three innings before running into trouble in the sixth.
In the top of the fifth inning, junior Valerie White singled and advanced to a second on a single by senior Heather Suca. With runners on first and second and no outs, first-year ISU head coach Brenda Coldren replaced starter Jamie Rasmussen with Gerner and Hanson deposited a 2-and-0 pitch over the left centerfield fence to tie the game at 4-4.
In the nightcap, the Hoosiers recorded 15 hits, as every IU player who recorded a plate appearance recording at least one. Indiana's fourth, fifth and sixth batters in the lineup (Hines, Stark, and Joy, respectively) notched eight hits and drove in a total of nine runs as Hines homered and doubled for two of her three hits, Stark recorded three hits, including a double, and Joy also singled in addition to her home run.
Roark (2-0) earned the second victory of her young career as she pitched the final four innings and allowed five hits and two earned runs, while walking two and striking out six. Witham opened the game in the circle and pitched the first four innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs. She surrendered seven total runs but five were unearned as the Hoosiers committed five errors in the second contest.
Indiana opens Big Ten play on Friday at it travels to Columbus, Ohio, to take on nationally-ranked Ohio State.