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Hawkeye softball to face in-state foes

BY BEN ROSS | APRIL 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa softball team will take a brief break from its meaty Big Ten schedule this evening to battle Drake at Pearl Field.

Iowa will bring momentum into the contest; the Hawkeyes are coming off a 1-0 victory against Illinois in a matchup that lasted nearly 10 innings.

Despite the low score, Iowa's bats were still busily at work; the squad managed 7 hits and loaded the bases three separate times but failed to get a run across until Melanie Gladden walked with the bases juiced to send the lone run home.

This means the Black and Gold (14-17) should have confidence when the Bulldogs (15-16) take the field in their away uniforms.

Iowa traditionally has Mondays off, so the squad only had one full practice in between its contests with Illinois and Drake. College softball teams often play games in succession with little rest or time off, which is why senior first baseman Katie Keim said she doesn't think the Hawkeyes will have a tough time transitioning from Big Ten play to Drake.

"We're kind of used to back-to-back [games]," she said. "I bet we'll be cued on some things in particular in practice, but it's pretty much the same format."

The Bulldogs have assembled an excellent record in the Missouri Valley this season, sweeping Indiana State and Bradley in a pair of three-game series. Drake also took two out of three from Missouri State in its most recent contests.

But the Bulldogs have struggled against nonconference foes, losing to Iowa State — a team Iowa beat in historic fashion by scoring 26 runs on Feb. 18 — on March 28 on the way to a 7-15 record outside the conference.

Even though Drake did just lose to a team Iowa blew out earlier in the season, the Hawkeyes said they know the transitive property doesn't apply to sports. That's why head coach Marla Looper said she thinks her squad is forgetful and that the short period of time between matches could be an advantage for her players.

"We have short memories," she said. "Sometimes you like a little longer week, sometimes you like a shorter week. One practice — we should be able to get some work done and take that to Drake."

Iowa made a lot of noise with its bats in the games against Illinois, but pitching has been the driving force of the successes and failures the team has been a part of this season. Only two pitchers — Chelsea Lyon and Kayla Massey — have appeared in the circle for Iowa. Both have losing records, but the duo's 2.24 combined ERA is the third-best in the Big Ten.

Senior catcher Liz Watkins said Drake brings some friendly competition created by the in-state rivalry.

"We really get after it," the Taylor Ridge, Ill., native said. "We try to attack every practice the same — but I think the girls' mindset is, 'We have to really get after it because it's cut down, and we only have one day of practice.' We saw what needs to be taken care of from the previous weekend.

"We're going to go out there and give them a game. It's the Hawkeye State, so we're going to go out and show them they're not going to compete with us."

Follow DI softball reporter Ben Ross on Twitter.


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