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Iowa softball continues to look toward offense

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | APRIL 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa softball team piled up 22 hits in two games against Michigan State last weekend, but even with having a lot of offensive success, the team is focusing on improving in the batter’s box.

The Hawkeyes’ series sweep against Michigan State on April 9-10 pushed their record to 21-15 overall, 4-2 in the Big Ten. Iowa will challenge Minnesota in a double-header at Jane Salge Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis today. Game one will begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by the second contest at 7 p.m.

“The biggest thing we need to continue to work on is making our adjustments in the batter’s box quicker,” head coach Marla Looper said. “We did have some hard-shot line drives [against Michigan State], but we also had some little dribblers on the infield. Some of those dribblers can be line drives through the gap if we just make a minor adjustment offensively.”

Out of the 11 players who came to the plate against the Spartan pitchers, only three didn’t register a hit. The team hit .373 for the series, including a .500 average on Sunday.

But this isn’t enough for the Hawkeyes.

“There’s never a day that goes that we can’t pick out a certain way to get better,” Looper said. “Even if it’s just one person making one small change, that will make us better. Day in and day out, game in and game out, there’s always some way we can.”

The Hawkeyes’ insistence on improvement depends on every Iowa player being self-motivated and responsible for getting better. Although general improvement is a team goal, it’s a personal investment and expectation, too.

“Everybody knows what she needs to work on and improve on,” sophomore Ashley Akers said. “Obviously, this is a team sport, so everyone has to know that the team will have their back. If you have something to work they have to know you’re going to get the job done.”

After the weekend series at home, the Hawkeyes had only one practice before leaving for the Twin Cities. The limited amount of midweek practice time makes each player’s self motivation even more important.

“You have to come in [to practice] knowing what you need to work on, and you have to use your time wisely,” sophomore Johnnie Dowling said. “You have to work your butt off trying.”
Iowa’s seniors play a crucial role in setting an example for work ethic, cocaptain Katie Keim said.

The upperclassmen have helped the younger Hawkeyes adjust to the team’s expectations by working hard themselves and staying dedicated to improving.

As the Hawkeyes trust each other to stay self-determined, new leaders are emerging from the practice field. Looper pointed to Dowling as one of the many young Hawkeyes who demonstrate the importance of taking practice seriously and trying to improve everyday.

“I’ve always been pretty motivated, but we have a lot of girls on out team who are self-motivated, too, and I think that kind of just carries over,” Dowling said. “If you step up and show the motivation that you have, it helps the team out.”


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