Iowa softball failed to make the NCAA Tournament

BY NICK DELAQUILA | MAY 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa softball team’s season came to end on Sunday evening after not being invited to the 64-team NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes capped their season with a 30-24 record and maintained an RPI ranking of 34.

Although the Hawkeyes missed a few of their season goals — along with not receiving a bid to the postseason tourney, Iowa didn’t win the Big Ten, as it originally planned — the season wasn’t a total loss. The team broke plenty of records and made new strides.

Shortstop Megan Blank broke a 20-year-old batting mark, hitting .437 over the 54-game season. Kim Davis set the previous mark in 1993, when she batted a scorching .428. Blank also led the team in doubles, home runs, hits, and RBIs. Her 58 RBIs were good for second-most in the Big Ten.

“It’s not easy to do what she did; the biggest thing is to maintain her game next season,” Iowa softball coach Marla Looper said. “The defenses won’t know how to stop her, and that’s just going to make her more dominant and more predominant in the country.”

Blank was named to the All-Big Ten first team and was recently tabbed as a third-team All American. Although her sophomore season came with much success, the Culver City, Calif., native is not satisfied yet.

“I need to just keep working hard and doing the little things right,” Blank said. “I’ll keep going over film and finding ways to improve.”

Looper will have an improved Blank for next season, but she’s also losing five seniors — three of whom were regularly in the starting lineup.

Centerfielder Johnnie Dowling, who led the team in triples and set the pace at the top of the Hawkeye lineup, will leave along with second basemen Bradi Wall and leftfielder Ashley Akers. Also departing the softball program is pitcher Chelsea Lyon and catcher Sam Valentine.

“I’m sad to see the seniors with such great talent go on,” third basemen Michelle Zoeller said. “But today marks a new season, and we have to look forward and focus on what we do have left [on this team.]”

Still, Iowa will return a strong nucleus of this year’s 30-win squad. Starting pitcher Kayla Massey will be back in the circle accompanied by battery mate Holly Hoffman. Brianna Luna will be back at first base as this Hawkeye team will try to make the next leap and qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Part of that will be fixing what went wrong this past season. The most important fix will be carrying the early season success into the conference portion of the season. The Hawkeyes boasted a 19-8 record before the beginning of Big Ten play, where they went 8-15 down the stretch — this included seven-straight conference losses at one point.

Looper’s squad is well aware that these miscues can’t happen next season, especially for a team that aspires to play more than just one postseason game.

“There is a whole lot of determination to make sure what just happened [not qualifying for tournament] doesn’t happen again next year,” Blank said. “We are going to do anything in our power to make sure we get to regionals and beyond.”

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