Commentary: Scoring droughts softball’s only weakness

BY IAN MARTIN | APRIL 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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After an immaculate 6-0 start in the Big Ten, the Iowa softball team has shown its weakness: scoring droughts.

In Iowa’s two games this weekend, the Hawkeyes produced one run.

Granted, the team’s stellar defense was able to convert Katie Brown’s sixth inning RBI into a 1-0 win on April 10 over Purdue. But those low-scoring victories are rare.

Sunday’s 2-0 loss to the Boilermaker’s exposed something this young team cannot afford, and that’s long stretches of innings with few to no runs.

Maybe I was spoiled in the first few games.

In Iowa City, the Hawkeyes hadn’t scored any fewer than eight runs before April 10, and in the Big Ten, Iowa had never scored fewer than five.

Even more noticeable was the margin of victory in Iowa’s recent wins — mercy-rule victories over teams that should have stuck close. There seemed to be nothing stopping a confident lineup in the batter’s box.

Last weekend looked to be no different. Iowa faced a middle-of-the-conference opponent who it had only lost to five times in its history.

But then there was something off.

Blevins said her hitters were guessing at the plate. This could’ve been frustration from being shut down by the same pitcher, Suzie Rzegocki, two days in a row.

Possibly because the Hawkeyes were used to scoring in the first inning, as they did the three previous games, they were thrown off by the dearth of early runs.

Maybe they were thinking about the Masters.

I don’t know, but something needs fixing.

Now I’m not saying Iowa should hit the red button. A 6-1 start is about the best the Hawkeyes could have hoped for — especially after a mediocre beginning to the season.

Iowa will face Wisconsin twice on April 14, a team at the bottom of the Big Ten. The Badgers give up an average of 5.14 earned runs per game, but over the weekend, they dropped two relatively close games to Penn State, 3-1, 3-0.

If there was ever a time to start a new winning streak, these games should be it.

The real key for Iowa should be in its leading hitters. For those at the bottom of the lineup, such as Taylor Leichsenring and Johnnie Dowling, their offensive contributions are a bonus to what they bring on defense.

Others, such as catcher Liz Watkins or first baseman Katie Brown, need to power the team with their bats. Not to say that either is bad defensively — both are actually quite good — but their roles on the team as non-freshmen, as people who have gone through a year or three, means they are required to take on more than one role.

Brown, Watkins, and outfielder Jenny Schuelke are all considered to be players who help the other team when they walk.

Basically, the Iowa coaches seem so confident they’ll get an extra base hit every time they go up, they don’t want them taking close pitches on full counts. And I agree.

If those three women can work the aluminum over the next few games, these dreadful scoring droughts will be a thing of the past.

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