Softball needs rebound

BY JON LINDER | MAY 06, 2009 7:28 AM

It has been an odd, frustrating week for the Iowa softball team.

The Hawkeyes entered the week ranked No. 25 nationally, riding a five-game winning streak and boasting yet another Big Ten Pitcher of the Week nod for senior Brittany Weil.

The Hawkeyes’ hopes of returning things to normalcy now hinge on today’s 3 p.m. double-header with Wisconsin.

“We have to take things one game at a time,” junior Amanda Zust said. “It starts with the first game [Wednesday], first inning [Wednesday].”

Things started to unravel during a mid-week game April 29 with Drake.

Weil was solid in the pitching circle against the Bulldogs, but she saw a three-hit, six strikeout performance squandered by costly fielding errors and a poor performance by Iowa hitters. Days after collecting 25 hits in two games against Indiana, the Hawkeyes managed just three in their 1-0 loss to the Bulldogs.

The Hawkeyes continued to struggle at the plate over the weekend against Big Ten front-runner No. 8 Michigan. Iowa jumped out to an early lead on May 2 when sophomore Chelsey Carmody hit her first home run of the season in the top of the third.

Michigan’s Nikki Nemitz got the best of Weil in what turned into a pitcher’s duel as the game wore on. Nemitz allowed just four hits and struck out 11, and Weil accumulated five strikeouts but gave up two earned runs on five hits. Iowa couldn’t muster any offense after Carmody’s solo shot, and fell, 2-1.

In Game Two on Sunday, Michigan shut down Iowa’s offense and hit a pair of home runs to secure a 6-0 victory. Jordan Taylor pitched a complete game for the Wolverines, allowing only two hits and striking out 16 of the 24 Hawkeyes she faced. Taylor took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before surrendering a single to Carmody.

Weil pitched 31⁄3 innings and gave up four earned runs en route to her 10th loss of the season. Michigan converted each of its six hits into runs, starting with a solo home run in the bottom of the third. The Wolverines blew the game open an inning later on Maggie Viefhaus’ three-run homer, and Taylor did the rest.

The Hawkeyes seemingly couldn’t catch a break, as even things as simple as getting home in the team bus proved frustrating. On the way home from Ann Arbor, the bus was sideswiped by a semi just outside Chicago. No one was injured, but the team didn’t get back to Iowa City until well after midnight.

“We got hit, and we heard a little bump,” Katie Brown said. “We really didn’t know what happened until the coaches told us.”

Wisconsin comes into today’s games with the worst record in the Big Ten (15-36, 3-13), but Hawkeye head coach Gayle Blevins stressed how important it is for her team to maintain focus on what it has control over.

“I think it’s important that we come back and refocus and regroup,” Zust said. “Go back to the fundamentals and get back to everyone feeling confident in herself again.”

The Badgers have a .216 team batting average and have scored only 110 runs, putting them 10th in the conference in both categories.

Center fielder Jen Krueger leads the Badgers at the plate with a .315 batting average and 20 runs scored. With one more stolen base, she will tie Wisconsin’s single-season record for stolen bases (19). Senior Leah Vanevenhoven has started eight-straight games for the Badgers, accumulating three wins and posting a 2.78 ERA.

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