Hawkeyes hold Northwestern star in check, look ahead to Iowa State

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | APRIL 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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Chelsea Lyon didn't know that Emily Allard was hitting .517. Shedidn't know the Northwestern sophomore had stolen 34 bases on the season or that she was named a top-25 finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year.

But Iowa's sophomore pitcher did know Allard went 1-for-8 against the Hawkeyes on April 15-16 at Pearl Field.

"Coach [Looper] is not very big on stats; she doesn't like us to look at them," Lyon said. "So I knew she was a great hitter. But I didn't know her batting average. I just went at her like every other hitter."

Allard came into the series against Iowa on a 23-game hitting streak. It was snapped on April 15 — she was held without a hit in a 10-8 Hawkeye victory. It wasn't until her third at-bat of the next game when Allard finally hit a chopper to left field for a base hit.

The Northwestern star is what Iowa assistant coach Adrianna Baggetta called a "slapper." Shehasn't hit a home run this season, and her nine RBIs — good for seventh on her team — further illustrate a lack of power.

But her ability to reach base, and to pose a constant threat once she's there, make her a dangerous hitter.

"I know she was trying to use the hard ground we had to chop at it, but our pitchers' strengths dictate that she's going to struggle doing that," Looper said. "If we got it up a little over the middle of the plate and a little higher, she would have taken advantage of that."

Hawkeye pitchers Chelsea Lyon and Kayla Massey avoided giving Allard easy pitches to hit and drew praise from Baggetta. But the first-year Iowa assistant had a simpler explanation for Iowa's success.

"We understood how quick we had to be defensively and how focused we had to be with her," she said. "But No. 1, I think we caught her on a down weekend, which was lucky for us."

A different challenge will pose itself tonight against Iowa State in Pearl Field. The Cyclones don't feature any .500 hitters, but they have more depth: Seven Iowa State batters hit above .300, and an eighth is at .286.

"With the Northwestern kid, you're more keyed on speed and quickness and aggression," Baggetta said. "[Tonight], it's going to be how confident and committed you are to making plays. You just have to be ready every person through the lineup."

But Iowa players likely don't know the number of .300 hitters among the Cyclones. Baggetta said while the coaches were thrilled with the team's success against Allard, the players weren't too aware of it.

And that's the way the coaching staff wants it.

"We trust our abilities and go with what our strengths are," Looper said. "We try not to consume ourselves too much with our opponent. We respect them and what they do, but if we can go with our strengths, we're going to have a better opportunity to take care of business."

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