Indiana Freshman Taryn Kern Leads Hoosiers To New Heights
On the afternoon of March 5, the Indiana Hoosiers lost to the Wisconsin Badgers 12-1 at home in their first game of the day. That would be the final loss for the Hoosiers in the month of March.
Twenty three straight wins later and the 50th team in program history is only six victories away from tying the highest win total for the program in 12 years. The Hoosiers are also five home runs away from surpassing the previous single-season home run record of 61, and just surpassed the single-season RBI record of 278 set in 1994. Simply put, it’s become a season to remember for the softball squad in Bloomington, Ind.
And an integral part of the team’s success this season has been freshman Taryn Kern, who leads all players in Division I in home runs with 17, which is a single-season record in Indiana's program history. She is also ranked first among freshmen in RBIs with 50, and fourth among freshmen in batting average, batting .434 so far for the season. Growing up in San Jose, Calif., the competitiveness and legacy of the Big Ten always stood out in her mind when thinking of where she wanted to play as a collegiate student-athlete.
“All the schools in the Big Ten just have super committed fan bases and a sports culture like nowhere on the West Coast, and I was definitely drawn to that,” said Kern.
Her journey across the country began as a kid practicing in a batting cage in her backyard with her dad, who played baseball in college at Gonzaga University. From the beginning, he taught her how to bat left-handed, focusing on giving her an advantage. Now, years later, after practicing together throughout her childhood, he and the rest of the Kern family have been able to watch Taryn succeed during her freshman season.
“I’ve been so grateful to have a support system that’s come out here,” said Kern. “It was definitely one of my worries coming from so far away, but for them to just be able to make it out here is amazing and I’m grateful for that.”
One of Kern’s supporters in the stands has included Danielle Peterson, who played softball in college for UCLA from 2005-2008 and is Kern’s hitting coach from back home in California. Along with her coaches on Indiana’s staff, she stays in regular contact with Peterson to work on her hitting.
Growing up, according to Kern, she was a “get on base” hitter more than a power hitter. She did not have a home run in high school until her junior year and it wasn’t until her senior year when, along with becoming stronger and taking control of her “mental aspects,” the ability to hit for power came into play for her.
That ability is not limited to Kern in the Hoosiers lineup. Fellow freshman Avery Parker has nine bombs of her own, sophomore Taylor Minnick has eight and sophomores Sarah Stone and Brianna Copeland each have seven long balls so far this season. Additionally, Minnick and Copeland each have double-digit doubles this season. Thus, Indiana has a lineup that can score a lot of runs, which instills confidence in everyone on the team.
“Our offense has been carrying our team regardless of what the other team does,” said Kern. “If they get a few runs, we’re going to come back and we’re going to score double the runs that they score.”
The previously mentioned Copeland has also been a star in the circle for the Hoosiers, currently possessing a perfect 15-0 record for the season. The Alabama native already has 10 more wins than she had all of last season and has also collected nearly 50 more strikeouts. Sophomore Heather Johnson has been successful as a closer for the Hoosiers this season, nabbing three saves so far to go along with 10 wins of her own.
The Hoosiers, with a balance of hitting for power and getting on base, have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years. For a program that is already breaking offensive records this season, an opportunity to play in the postseason would be the biggest prize.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and I think the coaches have been doing a great job,” said Kern. “It’s a reflection of them and what they’re building here on and off the field.”