Close games continue to haunt softball

BY MITCH SMITH | MARCH 10, 2010 7:30 AM

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With three of the four best hitters returning for the Iowa softball team, the Hawkeyes are on pace to hit more home runs than the 37 they tallied last year.

Still, the 2010 season hasn’t quite gone the way the Iowa softball team wanted.

“We’re not very happy with where we’re at right now,” senior Katie Brown said. “We’re disappointed with the outcomes of the games.”

After the team won six of its first nine games during the season’s initial two weeks, the Hawkeyes have since spiraled, doing a 360-degree turn in their last eight contests.

Iowa (8-9) has lost six of its last eight games — five of those coming by three runs or fewer.

Assistant coach Diane Stephenson said players are learning a lot about themselves and figuring out what needs improvement. One of the most important aspects, she said, is closing out games.

“One of the things you see with young teams is you have to learn to finish games,” she said. “We have to continue to put numbers up throughout the game. We’ve got to be able to score five, six, seven runs.”

Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins wants to see progress in the pitcher’s circle.

Hawkeye hurlers have allowed 54 earned runs and 50 walks through the first 17 games, both on pace to surpass the 77 earned runs and 123 base on balls recorded last season.

“We need to get a little better performance out of our pitching staff,” she said. “The difference could be one fewer walk or just making quality pitches. If we can see some reductions in those areas, we give ourselves a better chance.”

One aspect that hasn’t changed throughout the season has been the squad’s strength in the batter’s box.

Iowa is hitting .279 as a team. And while the squad has belted 12 home runs, Blevins and Stephenson said they have not put an added emphasis on hitting for power.

Leading the way is junior Chelsey Carmody, whose .415 batting average and five home runs tops the Hawkeyes. Carmody, who had only two career home runs heading into the 2010 campaign, is a product of her hard work, Stephenson said. The ball must look as big as a beach ball to the Marion native right now, the assistant said.

“Chelsey has a great approach,” Blevins said. “She’s one of the players who you want the young players to model because she makes adjustments at the plate.”

Four Hawkeyes — Carmody, and seniors Lindsey Digmann, Brown, and Taylor Leichsenring — are hitting above the team batting average.

In the leadoff spot, Digmann is tied for the conference lead with 23 hits.

Brown got off to a slow start, but she has improved each weekend. After starting the season with only two hits in her first 14 at bats, the Spirit Lake native has raised her average to .283, hit three home runs, and driven in 11.

With continued work in practice, and perhaps the chance to practice outdoors, Brown said, the team will get back on the winning end of ball games.

“Practicing hard on the little details carries over to the games,” she said. “Once we start having more of a focus in practice, then these things will carry over in the game. We’re kind of missing the details. Once we see the small details, we’ll start winning these ball games.”

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