Notebook: Hawkeye softball look to stay hot with eyes on postseason

BY NICK DELAQUILA | MAY 08, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa softball team is riding a five-game winning streak — its longest of the season. The Black and Gold will try to continue to ride that streak this weekend, when they begin play in the Big Ten Tournament in Lincoln, Neb.

This will be the first time since 2008 that the tournament will be played; it was discontinued from 2009 to 2012.

The ninth-seeded Hawkeyes will play their first-round matchup against eighth-seeded Ohio State on Thursday. Iowa and Ohio State have met only once this season, and Iowa dominated the Buckeyes, 8-0, in six innings.

In the March 10 matchup between the two teams, which was deemed a nonconference game, catcher Holly Hoffman belted a walk-off grand slam to secure the run-rule victory for the Hawkeyes. Iowa struggled in conference play during the regular season but ended on a high note by winning three straight over Purdue last weekend in West Lafayette, Ind.

Ohio State comes into the tournament with an overall record of 33-21 (10-13, Big Ten) but seems to be going in the opposite direction of the Hawkeyes. The Buckeyes dropped two of their final three games of the season and four of its last six in conference play.

The Hawkeyes’ recent streak has given them confidence, but that doesn’t mean they will treat this game — or this tournament — any differently.

“I think the biggest thing is we take it one game at a time. No other game matters. It’s just that one,” Iowa softball coach Marla Looper said. “This tournament will get us prepared for the postseason.”

Massey cruising

Junior pitcher Kayla Massey seemingly found her groove at the regular season’s end. She capped her 17-12 campaign with two complete games in as many days this past weekend, firing 14 innings of near-shutout baseball against Purdue on May 4 and Sunday. Massey allowed only 2 runs in the two games.

She has thrown 25 complete games in 30 starts this season, and the 17 wins mark a new career high for the junior.

Massey will try to repeat her last performance versus the Buckeyes; she tossed a six-inning complete game shutout against Ohio State in March. Her recent success has given her all the confidence she needs heading into the postseason.

“It’s such a confidence booster to win those games,” she said. “I’m just ready to get the show on the road, and I think we are all really excited and wanting to get going.“

Blank slumps into postseason play

Sophomore shortstop Megan Blank hopes to get back to her old ways this weekend after a 4-of-13 performance against Purdue in the regular season’s final series.

Although she struggled by her standards, the Culver City, Calif., native did finish the regular season hitting .436 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs. The 58 RBIs were good for second in the Big Ten this season.

Blank hasn’t lost any confidence, and she is ready to carry her team deep into the postseason.

“It’s a good thing to end the regular season on a high note,” she said on May 6 after Iowa swept Purdue. “It was a good team weekend for us; if someone wasn’t able to produce a clutch hit, someone else was ready to take on the workload.”

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