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Hawkeye softball looks to rebound against in-state opponent UNI

BY NICK DELAQUILA | APRIL 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa’s softball team won’t have much time to reminisce on Tuesday’s pair of losses to Illinois; they will head north for a game against Northern Iowa. The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. today in Cedar Falls.

It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Hawkeyes, but it may be for the better as it will be a nice change of pace from a grueling conference schedule that has tormented them for the last couple weeks. Coming into today’s game, Iowa has lost six games in a row and are a miserable 4-13 in conference play.

One of the lone bright spots for the struggling Hawkeyes has been sophomore shortstop Megan Blank. The Culver City, Calif., native has been ripping the cover off the ball as of late, batting .461 with eight games remaining. The school record is .428 set in the 1993 season by Kim Davis.

Blank has set the pace for the Hawkeyes; however, they are going to need more production from the rest of the lineup.

“I’m hoping Megan stays hot and doesn’t feel like she needs to put the team on her back,” Iowa softball coach Marla Looper said. “It’s nice when you have someone like that in lineup, you just hope you have one or two of three that come up behind her that can make it hurt when they put her on for free.”

Another bright spot to focus on would be the fact that Iowa is 22-12 away from Pearl Field this year — and that’s despite losing all three games in Ann Arbor last weekend. Iowa has done very well away from Iowa City this season.

“All I know is we came into conference with a target on our back, and people have pretty good aim right now,” Looper said. “It’s a lot harder playing with a target on your back than it is to just go all out.”

The target Looper speaks of is due to the early season success that the team had in February and March. Before conference play began on March 22, the Hawkeyes had beaten six ranked opponents and started to establish themselves on the national level.

There is plenty to work on for Iowa, but Blank seems to think it all comes down to executing the little things.

“We just need more timely hits and to clean up the defense a little bit,” she said. “We just need to keep fighting, as of late we have wanted to but we’re just not getting that result.”

Blank is also chasing the school RBI record. Currently, she sits 5 shy of the school record set in 1997 by Debbie Bilbao. Her 56 RBIs are good for second in the Big Ten and her 11 home runs put her in a tie for fourth in the conference.

But there are eight games remaining this season — including six in conference — leaving little time for the Hawkeyes to turn things around. Perhaps part of turning around this season, which isn’t lost yet, according to Looper, lies in the mindset of the players.

“Coming back from a loss like this is going to be hard,” freshman Micaela Whitney said. “ I think it’s really important that we keep that in mind during practice, before the next game.”


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