Radcliffe reunites with Stanton at Indiana

Grayson Radcliffe couldn’t help it. Her attention was split.

It was the spring of 2018, Radcliffe’s freshman season at Marshall, and the rookie shortstop had dueling interests.

On one hand, she was in the middle of her first campaign as the Thundering Herd’s starting shortstop. On the other, the coaching staff that recruited her to Huntington, W.Va., was now miles away in Bloomington, deep in the process of rebuilding Indiana’s struggling softball program.

Shonda Stanton and company were succeeding in that endeavor, too, injecting new life into a Hoosier program that needed a jolt. From afar, Radcliffe watched with wonder.

“From Weekend 1, I was keeping up like, ‘Oh, how’s Indiana doing? How’s Indiana doing?'” Radcliffe said. “When Big Ten season started, and they started rolling and competing and beating everybody, I think they started to make a name for themselves. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘Indiana might be a place I would want to go and compete.'”

Eventually, that dream came to fruition.

After one season at Marshall, Radcliffe realized where she wanted to be — at Indiana, and with the coaching staff that began recruiting her when she was 13 years old.

Through the first two weekends of the season, it’s a match that’s working well for both parties.

Stanton has a productive shortstop to replace what the Hoosiers lost with the graduation of Rachel O’Malley, and Radcliffe is benefitting from the coaching wisdom she sought from Stanton years ago.

All told, Radcliffe’s addition is one of the components that has No. 19 Indiana (9-0) off to its second-best start in program history.

“She’s gonna make every routine play, and she’s gonna make the spectacular play up the middle look easy, and so we haven’t skipped a beat in that regard,” Stanton said. “She’s provided a spark offensively, but what I think I like the most, what my staff likes the most, is her competitive nature. She’s a winner. She believes in her teammates and the system and she believes in herself. That’s so important.”

Without question, Radcliffe believes in Stanton, too.

Stanton spent 18 seasons guiding Marshall, jumping to Indiana in June 2017. She began recruiting Radcliffe out of Rockville, Va., when the infielder was just starting high school, forging a relationship that carried through the years. Simply plucking Radcliffe out of Virginia was no easy task. Radcliffe never thought she’d want to go to west — even one state over — preferring to stay close to her home near the state capital of Richmond.

But the success of Stanton and her staff at Marshall resonated with Radcliffe, and she jumped at the chance to join a program that won five conference titles and posted 12 seasons with 30 or more wins under Stanton’s watch.

“I committed there super early because they just have such a love for the game and such a competitive spirit,” Radcliffe said. “They want to have fun and they want to get after it, and they want to compete in every aspect of it. … When they decided to leave Marshall, everyone was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is Grayson gonna do? What is Indiana gonna look like?’ They just have this air about them that when they go somewhere, people want to watch and see what they’re doing.”

Radcliffe, included.

After starting 53 games, and collecting 30 hits with 15 RBIs during her first season at Marshall, Radcliffe decided to explore other options.

Indiana, of course, was on the short list, but it wasn’t the only place Radcliffe looked. Programs in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference were also interested before she ultimately decided to rejoin the staff that had recruited her the first time.

“Our strong relationship in the first recruiting process helped us in the second one,” Stanton said. “Thankfully, when you show up on Indiana’s campus, we have everything when it comes to academic excellence, the Big Ten brand and a beautiful community and campus. It was just up to her making that leap of faith like, ‘I really want to play for this coaching staff and help Indiana do something big.'”

So far, so good.

Radcliffe has filled the hole left by O’Malley’s departure in the field, at the plate and in the clubhouse. She’s batting .292 with three extra-base hits, including a home run through the first two weekends of the season.

At long last, Radcliffe is where she wants to be.

“Leaving Marshall was absolutely the hardest thing I ever had to do, just with all my friends and the connections I had there,’ Radcliffe said. “But I knew this staff was something special and I wanted more in softball, in school and just everything. I knew that with this coaching staff, they were gonna get me that.”