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Iowa softball looks to escape from Big Ten's with in-state rival Drake

BY NICK DELAQUILA | APRIL 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa softball team plans to regain its early-season form when it travels west to face Drake this evening.

After beginning the season 17-6 — including impressive wins over five top-25 opponents — the Hawkeyes have struggled since entering Big Ten play. They’ve gone just 1-5 in the conference contests, including losing two of three in a series last weekend against Wisconsin.

While playing at home is usually advantageous, Iowa softball coach Maria Looper said he looks forward to getting away from Pearl Field. The third-year coach doesn’t mind the road trip, especially one that only involves I-80.

“It’s going to be nice to get out on the road again. You don’t like saying that, but I think I am excited,” Looper said. “It’s a more controlled environment. We spent the first six weeks in the plane, on the bus, and in a hotel all together, and it’s a lot more structured.”

On the road or at home, one thing is for certain: the Hawkeyes need the offense to come alive, and they will need to score more runs if they are going to regain their winning ways.

Iowa managed to score just 2 runs in the three-game set against Wisconsin last weekend — one of which was on a walk-off home run by junior Michelle Zoeller in the ninth inning on March 29.

The players know the productive offense they once displayed is still attainable. Megan Blank knows this well. The sophomore from Culver City, Calif., is sitting at the top of the Big Ten in runs batted in this season with 38.

But as Blank slumps, so too does the Iowa offense. This is something she is certainly trying to correct moving forward.

“We need to learn to drive the ball with runners in scoring position; we need to work on executing that for tomorrow,” Blank said. “Pitch selection and knowing the umpire’s strike zone is key.”

A clear mindset, when entering the batters box has often helped the Hawkeyes in the past. But Blank said in-game adjustments will allow Iowa to get back to executing on the offensive attack.

“You can prepare before the game, just knowing what to expect,” Blank said. “We talk in between innings about what we did the inning before and the adjustments we need to make, so a lot of it is in-game adjustments.”

Tonight’s game with Drake (19-12) will be a nice break from a tough conference schedule.  However, both Looper and her players know that it would be foolish to overlook any opponent.

“Drake is a quality ball club. Their coach has done a phenomenal job with that program,” Looper said. “They are scrappy, they’re gritty, and they step on the field with not having anything to lose.”

It’s a little out of the ordinary but not unusual to have a game in the middle of the week, especially an in-state game. Although it does mean missing a day of practice, the women don’t see it as an obstacle to their ultimate goal.

“I actually really like midweek games, personally,” senior Johnnie Dowling said.” It gives us another chance to kind of work out some kinks before we head back into Big Tens.”


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