Softball prepares for No. 23 Northwestern

BY JACK ROSSI | APRIL 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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After an upsetting loss on Wednesday to Drake, 5-3, Iowa (9-16) will turn to a three-game series against No. 23 Northwestern this weekend.

“I thought we banded together to get the hits and scored when we needed to, but we came up short in a couple innings,” Claire Fritsch said.

Wednesday’s game may have been a wake-up call for the Hawkeyes. When they faced Drake earlier this year they won, 9-0, in six innings. Despite Drake being a nonconference opponent, Iowa says it needs to treat all the games as if they are conference tilts.

“I don’t care we have nonconference sprinkled in with conference, we have to play like it’s all conference,” head coach Marla Looper said. “We’ve got to take care of [teams like] Missouri when they come up and Western Illinois when they come over.”

Iowa’s defense struggled once again and being at home did not make much of a difference. The Hawkeyes racked up three errors, while Drake committed none, and the Hawkeyes don’t have much time to address the issues because of the quick turnaround.

“We need to get back to work on the little things. We’ve talked about it every day,” Looper said. “It’s not any different from the rest of the year. Some of those mistakes are the same ones that we’ve done. They know it, and we’ve just got to fix it, and a lot of that is attacking the ball.”

Northwestern is coming into Iowa City with a 20-8 record, 3-3 in conference play. The Wildcats are coming off a record-setting game against Illinois-Chicago in which they batted around the order twice in the bottom of the first, sending 18 batters to the plate and scoring 12 runs on their way to a 14-7 victory. The rally was the largest ever by the program. Containing Northwestern’s offense will be key going into the weekend.

“Northwestern is a very good hitting team, and they will hit the ball well,” pitcher Kayla Massey said. “We need to be able to hit, field, and put all of our stuff together to play with them. They are a very good team.”

Looper and her staff would like junior Megan Blank to continue playing well to so that the Hawkeye offense can keep up with Northwestern’s. Blank has been on fire recently. She has a seven-game hitting streak and leads the team in batting average at .370.

But for now, the focus is getting the team, which includes five freshmen used to playing at home and trying to establish home-field advantage.

“We haven’t been on our field much, and we have practiced on it a little. It’s a little different surface than what we’ve been on, but that’s not an excuse. It’s our field,” Looper said. “It should be a home-field advantage, and we should know how to play it.”

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