Iowa softball heads to Purdue for the season's final series

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

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The Iowa softball team’s final series of the regular season will take place in West Lafayette, Ind., this weekend. On the schedule is a three-game set with the Boilermakers.

The Hawkeyes will take their two-game winning-streak to the Boilermaker Softball Complex in the hopes of finishing the season with five-straight victories. The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. today. The games on Saturday and May 5 will both start at noon.

The series is Iowa’s last chance at fixing its disappointing conference record, which sits at 5-15.

Luckily for the Hawkeyes, their opponent hasn’t fared much better — Purdue sits one spot ahead of Iowa in the standings with an overall record of 22-28 but is only 8-12 in its Big Ten games.

Iowa’s offense has recently caught fire — the Hawkeyes have scored 13 runs in its last two wins compared to the 8 they scored in the two games prior, both of which were loses.

“We really just focused on seeing our pitches, and driving them through,” second basemen Bradi Wall said. “We’ve struggled a little bit lately, so it was nice to score some runs that way.”

Third basemen Michelle Zoeller has recently been on an offensive tear. The junior’s last five outings — single games against Northern Iowa and Iowa State and a three-game set against Penn State — have been extremely productive, to the tune of a .467 clip with 7 RBIs.

This recent string of solid offense has pushed Zoeller’s overall batting average to a.295, and her season total of 21 RBIs now ranks fifth on the Iowa lineup card.

Both Zoeller and Wall know that if Iowa wants to heighten its chances of sweeping Purdue this weekend — despite owning an overall 36-9 record over the Boilermakers — the defense needs to improve and avoid errors, which has been a big issue lately for the Hawkeyes.

“We still want to work on cleaning up our defense, we have only had one errorless game,” Zoeller said. “We just want to finish this last weekend strong and finish our season on a high note.”

Through 50 games, Iowa has committed 65 errors. Only Indiana has committed more out of all 12 of the Big Ten teams with 70.

Iowa saw shades of those errors creeping into its May 1 game against Iowa State this past week. The Black and Gold defense allowed 3 Cyclone runs — one in each of the first three innings — mainly due to the defensive miscues that arose.

But Iowa softball coach Marla Looper said she was happy to see the defense settle down a bit as the game progressed, showing signs that a complete defensive performance might soon be on the horizon.

“It was nice that we didn’t give them a big inning; they only got 1 run at a time, but we stopped it,” Looper said.  “But we have to do a better job of limiting the error column.”

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